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Protovulcan attempts to redefine tonality

Protovulcan attempts to redefine tonality as we know it in surrealist, postmodern terms with their new release Life is Twigs/Psychic Pinball, which unites two three-song records in Life is Twigs and Psychic Pinball alongside two remixes and promises to shake your stereo speakers right off of the shelf. There’s no simple way to breakdown this fascinating treasure chest of noise and harmony; to do so easily discredits the originality installed in its compositional construction by the band members themselves. Protovulcan make abstract avant-garde rock for a complex and sophisticated kind of music fan, but one thing is undeniable – their new EP is a thrill ride into the heart of sonic discord that any music enthusiast would feel privileged to engage with.

Lyrical narratives aren’t presented to us through traditional means in this record, but then again, no component of Protovulcan’s music is. “Pine For You” amounts to an ironic love song when the noise is stripped away and its solemn melody and words are all that remain. Other songs like “Purple Sky” and “Soma Sutra” are a bit more formless in their meaning, invoking fantasy imagery and themes to create a dreamy atmosphere that can match up with the sonic depth in the music. Life is Twigs is a bit more relatable than Psychic Pinball is, but both sides of this record live up to their zany titles.

There’s a progressive flow between the tracks that makes for quite the fetching addition to what is already an EP that fires on all cylinders and keeps us on the edge of our seats through all eight of its unique songs. “The Force Remains the Same” bleeds right into the spooky “Snake Legend,” and even though the remixes of “Purple Sky” and “Celestial Slingshot” are conceptually outside of the primary stream of tracks, they keep the fluidity of the first six songs going splendidly and finish us off with just as much mammoth energy as we started out with.

The production quality of Life is Twigs/Psychic Pinball is very even and well-balanced despite how gritty and atonal the music can be at times. I’m able to listen to “Soma Sutra” at full volume and, in that capacity, hear hundreds of grinding notes crashing against each other and forming the larger melody that cushions the frame of the song. The bass is as colorful as a peacock feather, much as the percussion in “Snake Feather” is as raw and full of vitality as a newborn wild beast that’s already thirsty for its first taste of blood.

As shapeless as it is stirring of the soul, Protovulcan’s Life is Twigs/Psychic Pinball is not easy listening music, nor is it the jaded rhymes and rhythm of hip-hop, placated ineptitudes of modern pop or the blistering but ultimately pointless virtuosity of contemporary rock n’ roll. Protovulcan create music that is meant to make you question everything you’ve ever thought about the nature of melody, tonality, harmony and even composing itself, and not only does this release accomplish everything that the band set out to do with it, it speaks to a carnal part of the human spirit that is shamefully neglected in our present times. Simply put, this is a record that demands a reaction and deserves all the attention it’s been receiving ahead of official release.

John McCall

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