By Davey Boom
Physiognomy, by MKE band Conundrum, is a solid rocky jazzy proggy album that slowly trips to a righteous groove.
I mention trips, because the album reminds me of something very specific: your first acid trip.
Like any good trip, it begins in a familiar area. Not your friends’ bedroom. No, slightly more exotic. Maybe – a laundromat? Sunday afternoon. You dissolve the paper on your tongue in front of the the bathroom mirror. You stare at yourself, catching your own eyes, ask if you’re ready. Too late now, the answer. Outside the bathroom an old lady is asking have you’ve seen a greeeeeen umbrella, sweetie?
“Have Know Anything” is playing above. You like it, its got a beat, and you could dance to it… but you feel like a walk.
Your feet hit pavement and shift gears; to the park. Is it working yet? Nothing seems strange. Birds chirp, kids play, cars drive. Hey, have trees always been this GREEEEEN?
Your heart is thumping in your chest. The world comes into sharp focus. You start to run and the air on your skin feels AMAZING. Finally, its kicking in…
“Phantom Gravitas”, the 2nd song, is the manic urge to move. Guitarist Alex Klosterman trills and spills up and down the fretboard like a master, while drummer Charlie Celenza riffs ands counters alongside. Benkowski shows off his basswork, fitting underneath it all, propping it all up.
You’re in the grocery store. Don’t Fear the Reaper plays on the loudspeaker. You’re beginning to feel the Universe is merely playing an elaborate game of tag with you.
By the third song, “L.U.S.T.”, things have mellowed and it’s clear Klosterman has hit his stride. He gleefully lays over riffs with understated pedalwork, adding different parts in different voices for the same script – at the same time. It’s a neat trick done well, and fills in the musical landscape with rich, unobtrusive tones. Owen Benkowski’s cheerily-eerily beautiful vocal harmonies pull the song through a wormhole, to a different era. Celenza is crisp and clean, using a space-age foam polymer-of-a-touch to keep it light when the song might have otherwise dragged.
“Northern Lights” is a short but pretty ballad, a tiptoe past sleeping giants. A sweet sad song, maybe of youth and exploration and only a tinge of bittersweet regret.
A filter has been dropped over your eyes. Colors are so vibrant they sing. The world pulses with your heartbeat, and you struggle to hold on to your train of thought. Surprises and synchronicities reveal themselves around every corner. Everything makes sense before you have a chance to make sense of it.
It all has to be this way. It always was this way. You find yourself in a tunnel, darkness all around you. You look ahead and the way is lit. There never was a choice. You are no longer You. You are the journey. Divisions cease and everything is One.
“Configured Sabotage” starts off like a shot with a flurry of crisp harmonics. Klosterman again darts to the lead, whirling and veering forward in complex steps. He’s found his Way. So has Benkowski. He fades in and out of existence, a ghostly memory of a man fighting to remain in the present.
“Cops Are Here” picks up at the evening, your buzz still going strong. Buzz, buzz. BUzz. Even the city is humming around you. The wind suddenly picks up and that car’s headlights are trying to tell you something and you’re trying to buy alcohol and everyone is an alien and they’re looking at you and oh my god maybe YOU’RE the alien and
You lay down the cash, pick up the liquor and get out. Take a deep breathe of air and exhale easily as you move out of time.
You join up with your friends in the park. Its really all okay Everything is all right Everyone is talking at once but It sounds like Music and you’re all really jamming and the moment stretches infinitely over you like saran wrap. You can’t remember what just happened ten seconds ago, but the Universe is passing you by if you stop and try, so you go with it.
The night wears on, and settles in your living room. A bottle from the left, a joint from the right. Someone somewhere musta put some good music on, and the couch is growing. Or you’re shrinking. It doesn’t matter. Life is good.
You’ve been smiling for what seems like hours now, and your face is starting to hurt. You curl up to keep warm and watch the spell slowly wear off.
And that’s where Physiognomy finishes. With you, reflectively staring at the walls, watching them breathe and knowing it’s always been that way, you were just too busy to notice.
Not a bad trip.
Not a bad album.