Indie, ambient, funk, electro, this Kuwaiti band try to tie them all together in an ambitious album rich with interesting flourishes
Occasionally, one comes across a truly unclassifiable album. While it is nice to dig into a record that gives you more or less exactly what you want, or what you expect, and it’s certainly a brilliant experience to listen to an album that defies your expectations and challenges your preconceptions about a genre or mix of genres, it is also extremely fun to listen to something that’s completely off-the-wall bonkers in its creation, often leading to varied and conflicting responses. Timenesia by Kuwaiti outfit Galaxy Juice is one such album. When listening to the album for the first time I very much did not enjoy it, finding it to be something of a mess. Then, I listened to it again, and it made more sense as a piece (I don’t think this is an album you can dip in and out of, it has to be listened to whole, and I’ll get to why I think that later, but luckily it is also only 30 minutes long), but then I left it there. That is where I picked up several month later, coming to relisten to the album for this review. I had little memory of it besides remembering I thought it was odd but interesting. On reflection, the album, though flawed, is bold and fascinating, with much to enjoy should you feel like you want to put in the time to find its treasures.
“While the band are wildly grabbing at a wide range of genres they like, overall, I think their understanding of the rhythms of the songs works in their favour.”
The album begins in an indie dream pop style with the song Allokation, with the slowly sung lyrics and repetitive synths creating a musical texture that is almost hypnotic. However, this then gives way to the more or less straightforward indie rock number called Hold On that’s got some Smiths and the Strokes inflections to it, with the lead singer’s voice sounding reminiscent of Julian Casablanca's. Hold On is probably the most commercial and radio-friendly the album gets, and it’s a good place to start to get a feel of their style. It’s indie rock with some unusual flourishes. Its after this song that things get really interesting. The next song, Magical Carpet is a more Middle-Eastern inspired song, using natural sounds as well as traditional instruments to create an instrumental piece that is a complete palate cleanser to what has come before. We are now set for another change of gear, with Tiny Village sounding like if the Strokes decided to do a post-rock song. A slow song with a dronelike rhythm, echoey vocals and minimalistic instrumentation, it builds to a crescendo, giving into the electro track Take It to The Ground. The album is filled with these moments of increasing and decreasing tension, making you want to continue to listen so that you’ll find those moments of release. Salt Road once again wrong-foots the listener, starting with (of all things) a digeridoo, which is then followed by Arabian-style woodwind and ethereal synths, again building up the musical tension, before Wifi Love, a moody song with bright, crispy vocoded vocals that yields into an ambient piece that borders on white noise, which continues into Colossal Bells, before we end on a raga rock song that successfully integrates sitars, synths and tablas into one catchy song. It’s one hell of a journey.
This album won’t be for everyone. I rarely review an entire album like this, going through song genre by genre, and how that impacts the listener, but here I feel it is relevant. While I think the best way to experience the album is from beginning to end without interruptions, many people may find the genre whiplash one abrupt change too many, and something that makes the album disjointed, incoherent, ill-disciplined. Though I do think that some of the songs don't work so well, and certainly on first listen it can be bamboozling, overall I would disagree, mainly because I think while the band are wildly grabbing at a wide range of genres they like, overall, I think their understanding of the rhythms of the songs works in their favour. The building and releasing of tension, often ending their psychedelic songs on crescendos and following it up with a more up-tempo piece works nicely. You do get a sense of a journey through a wide range of genres, whilst also getting a sense of their Kuwaiti musical heritage. The band describe themselves as ‘a band from outer space to save the human race’, and that brief sentence does give a good account of the band. While I don’t think they’re going to save the human race (though God knows we're in dire need of saving) their ‘outer space’ outlook allows the band to break free from genre conventions or even typical notions of experimentalism or fusion, and it allows them to simply perform the music they want, how they want.