The Trans-Urban Sound
Reality Serum: Camanche (Lyrics/Lead Vocals) & Twizle (Instruments/Backing Vocals)
I think I’m starting this trend where I start out a post by talking a
bout something I like about a band besides their music. In this case, I like the beard on Reality Serum‘s guitarist, Twizle. I dig those long, thin beards that only musicians tend to sport. The ones that extend way beyond the face and seem to have the solidity of stalagtites. And there’s something especially novel about them if they’re braided, like way the guitarist from Lit style his beard. But Twizle looks more like Shavo Odadjian, System of a Down’s bassist, than anyone else.
Anyway, Reality Serum is a band from Long Island, New York with such a strange blend of sounds that I was kind of hesitant to even listen to them in the first place just because I didn’t think it would mix well. But they’re album Hop In ends up being quite interesting. They dub themselves “Trans-Urban,” which is a genre that mixes equal parts ambient electronica, alternative rock, and hip-hop. They almost sound like a combination of My Bloody Valentine and Atmosphere. They’ve got that kind of groovy, flowing, atmospheric vibe that is still kinda crunchy and noisy. The hip-hop element is what made me debate about whether I wanted to listen to them at first because I didn’t think a direct rap influence would work well with that shoegazing element. Granted, I think it does seem a little awkward at first, but after listening to a couple tracks you start to get into it and you can start to appreciate it a lot more. I think that’s one of the positive elements of this album: it challenges you. It’s easy to just listen to the same old, same old and remain in a state of blissful redundancy, but it’s good to have someone come in and mix things up a bit. That’s why bands like Reality Serum who delve into the realm of experimentation are such a boon.
But anyway, I don’t think the first track, “Here We Go,” gets things off to a good enough start, which may be another reason why Reality Serum’s style might put you off at first. The song is just a little too slow and cumbersome as it seems to drag on a little bit, a feeling that is further enhanced by the fact that it’s pretty repetitious. But things get a lot better in the track, “Inside Out,” which still uses repetition, but it uses it in more engaging and less droning fashion so as to never lose the listener’s attention. The band also manages to mix things up enough and keep a strong enough pace where you never think to yourself, “Is this song still going on?” Instead, you’re more likely to get lost in the song’s atmospherics and pay more attention to the aggressively delivered vocals. Reality Serum manages to maintain that kind of strength throughout the rest of the album as well. The only weak track, in my opinion, is “Here We Go,” which is unfortunate since that’s the song that introduces the listener to the rest of the album.
Of the rest of the album, it’s difficult to pick a few tracks that stand out above the rest, but I think that “Don’t Stress Me,” “Bring It On,” and “My Life” are particularly spectacular songs. “Don’t Stress Me” creates an intensely stark contrast between very mellow, ethereal instrumentation and an especially fierce lyrical delivery. It makes for an intriguing listen just to hear that seemingly counterintuitive combination being pulled off and have the two diverse elements play off of one another. “Bring It On” is just a really engaging track in its powerful delivery and in the way the instrumental sections build on top of one another until they reach a climactic peak. “My Life” is probably the slowest track on the album and is quite pleasant to listen in that sense, but it also has a somber quality that keeps the listener emotionally attached to the music.
Like I said earlier, if you’re like hip-hop or alternative rock with some ambience, then you can challenge your ears with Hop In. It may take a bit to let the music take hold and to throw all of your preconceptions out the window, but it will be worth the while for those of you with open minds.
Purchase Hop In by Reality Serum
Reality Serum – Inside Out
Reality Serum – Bring It On
Reality Serum – My Life