Music Reviews
Gauntlet Hair

Gauntlet Hair Gauntlet Hair

(Dead Oceans) Buy it from Insound Rating - 4/10

If ranked for recording ingenuity alone, then Gauntlet Hair have concocted one stimulating, if possibly deafening, experience that should be placed among the top tier of 2011’s noisemakers. Coming from the burgeoning Denver, Colorado scene, their debut release responds with a remote sense of bewilderment, which absorbs layer upon layer of sonic textures and batters it until creating some odd form of organized chaos. These days, their awakening is a common tale – a duo of artists who, seemingly out of nowhere, broke through a killer tune with the expectation of expanding it for an eager blogosphere to justify its early reputation.

That track was I Was Thinking, an assaulting shout-along that constantly gyrates with a bevy of trebly, yet clanging guitar delays, brusque handclaps, and other heavily processed intrusions. It’s a fitting introduction, seeing as they’ve decided to characterize the entirety of their full length on this principle alone. Now under eclectic indie imprint Dead Oceans, their fresh signing comes at an expense, one that has its two songwriters struggling to expand a novel idea any further than the thought stage. Gauntlet Hair has the shape and form of an ugly, mucky mutation spewed forth from whatever’s currently topping the charts on Sirius XMU. It opts to lit the campfire formerly inherited by avant-oddballs such as Mercury Rev and Animal Collective, but with an exultant spontaneity that merely outlines its vision without truly delving into any tactile songwriting. 

Overpowered by Andy R.’s gorging vocal wails (which finds a center between Tom Vek and Ronald Orzabal), the abrasive sonic washes trickle along with looped electronic pulses executed in a plainly minimalist style. With each track, the duo executes a brute force that normally gathers momentum, thrusts gauzy shades of luminous reverb, and usually goes for the gut once those elements culminate into sweeping mini-epics. From the cavernous trance of Mop it Up to the rattling, moist guitars of Isn’t Anything-evoking My Christ, they extract lucid touches alongside what really feels like a sneering, warbly ambience that gets progressively exhaustive.

If this all sounds enticing, than you’d be hard-pressed find an act as contented for making a slam-dunk of a sound. But taking those intoxicating caterwauling guitars out of the equation, there’s not going for Gauntlet Hair besides an obligatory second visit to the drawing board. The album itself flows in a condensed liquid state, slowly sublimating into a vaporous state when its assembly should be rock solid. There’s much promise for an act like Gauntlet Hair to floor its contemporaries with time, but as it stands, their grimy, sewage system is in dire need of maintenance.