Hymie's Basement
Hymie's Basement

By Demented Toddler

 
Hymie's Basement are Andrew Broder of Fog (Ninja Tune) and Jonathan Wolf of cLOUDDEAD (Anticon) fame. Their weird, quiet album of mostly short songs (often only a couple of minutes long) is characterised by a peculiar, and peculiarly American, earnest quirkiness. 'Right now I am not installing a carburettor in my uncle's mini-bus'. Some may find this as irksome as the Eels' Beautiful Freak, but hopefully more often, as enjoyable as the Velvets' White Light/White Heat (especially The Gift). It pretends not to be aware that anything's wrong with its head – 'If you're lonely get a lobotomy' – or with the world – 'Right now I'm not clearing land in a Costa Rican rainforest for American logging companies, chainsaw in hand'.

The music is made up of lots of synthesised sounds, with odd noises and effects, counterbalanced with spare piano and guitar. Sometimes it sounds 'experimental' (an idea reinforced by the short, work-in-progress feel of some of the tracks and the false starts on Ben and Joey), awkward, even cacophonous. At other times it is simple and melodic, beautiful in an American Beauty plastic bag kinda way.

When Broder and Wolf are at their best, all the parts come together to create something far more than their sum, as in the case with Ghost Dream, alone worth the price of the album at a frustrating but perfect 2 minutes 55 seconds.

With its diverse debts – to hip hop/trip hop, folk/antifolk, even spoken word records, it's odd to find writing which somehow nods to the mores of the well-crafted pop song. The Act – 'It makes perfect sense for children to practise having love affairs at summer camp' – sounds like the beginning of something Fountains of Wayne might write if they were feeling particularly sleepy that day (like Hat and Feet on Utopia Parkway).

The album feels less like a whole, finished thing than it does the best bits of some clever, downbeat jam sessions, but that doesn't diminish it any. You certainly have to be in the right mood for it, but if you are receptive, there are some very pleasing turns to be found here for sure.
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