LA band Dummy released their new album Mandatory Enjoyment via Trouble In Mind last week, a twelve track oddyssey of hazy retro pop, hypnotic drones, ambient soundscapes and bursts of pummeling noise with a globe-wandering magpie mentality that picks up shiny nuggets of Japanese new age, Italian minimalism and spiritual jazz influence along the way, throwing in a hearty dose of home town psychedelia for good measure.
Musically, it’s practically bursting with euphoric, enthusiastic energy, fizzing and energising like an aural Berocca, but delve into the lyrics and you’ll find a grim and grey core beneath the technicolour exterior, drawn, according to the band, from “the burden of modern life, consumerism, environmental collapse, alienation, and other anxieties born out of living in this absurd moment in history”.
We asked Dummy to lead us through this dichotomy with a track by track guide to the album and they kindly obliged.
This song came together in the studio from a burst of inspiration from an acapella tune by Billy Nichols. Serving as an intro to track two, the lyrics are a bit of a mish-mash that range from outer space to inner space and down to the ocean floor.
This is one of the few songs that was written and worked out by playing live, based entirely around the drum beat. Titled by Daddy Sagan, it’s about the deepest depths of the sea, and how humans are destroying things we haven’t even discovered yet.
This one originated as just the two basslines which Alex had sequenced on a synth and thought sounded cool. Nathan had the idea to have one bassline as an extended intro to the main song. Then, in the studio, we had the idea for the crazy auxiliary drum beat, which was all samples that we made. Nathan came up with the vocal melody and it all came together!
Warning: This video contains flashing images from the start
Punk Product # 4
Pure noise pop indebted to MBV, about the pitfalls of choosing a career in “art” in an ever-changing, expanding, splintering and confusing “art world.”
When the Spotify Release Radar is filled with skippable tunes.
This song represents a turning point for Dummy. It was one of the first songs that we made an effort to bring the noisy pop element of our early work together with ambient and experimental soundscapes. We went through several different iterations before trying the flipped “sudden noise burst” version that ended up on the album. This was a song we played in our live set back in 2019, but the live version features a cacophonous improvised outro instead of the more ambient album version.
This song title was a quote taken from a YouTube vlog of a guy tripping on acid, and it’s one of a few working titles that actually made the final cut, because it ended up informing the lyrical content. It’s about home-making, nesting and decorating as a coping mechanism.
The idea for this track was to make a synthetic field recording. We ended up recording the sound of a creek near our house and then adding fake bird sounds (self-oscillating filter with different LFO shapes). The inspiration came from reading an article about an ambient producer who had just bought the field recordings from their album online, which felt really incongruous with the notion of making an ambient/field recording album to begin with. For the hammered string sound, we tuned a guitar to open F# (I think) and then played the harmonics with a drum stick.
This song is all about the superbloom fiasco a few years back, wherein instagrammers showed up and stomped all the poppies to death for a photo op. It seemed like an apt metaphor for the modern world’s relationship with nature.
X Static Blanket
Started with a looped bass line and slowly came together through different demos and mixing in the studio. Easily the most emotional song on the record. Lyrics are about longing for things unattainable and realizing some cycles are inevitable.
Aluminum In Retrograde
This song is kind of a sequel to “Folk Song” on our EP, but taking more inspiration from bossa nova instead of 60s psych folk. Morse code is also an inspiration.
This song was a whole project unto itself. Heavily inspired by a Yasuaki Shimizu track, we originally tried to have it blossom into a krautrock song after the intro. When that didn’t have the impact we wanted, we ended up trying so many different ideas before arriving at the three-part version on the album. We realized that it needed a big pop moment to pay-off the very meditative and slow beginning. The lyrics are a simple reflection on the beauty of existence itself. Where most of the other songs talk about serious issues in our world and society, this song represents the other side of the coin. In everything there is peace and violence, beauty and depravity. The most transgressive thing to do in a world that wants to oppress you is to experience joy and appreciate the beauty of it all.
Mandatory Enjoyment is out now via Trouble In Mind. Order now on vibly, CD or digital download via Bandcamp.
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Introduction by Paul Maps
Photograph by Dummy