Gulls: Mean Sound EP
Boomarm Nation

Portland, Oregon label Boomarm Nation brings us a dynamic four-track outing of experimental brilliance by Gulls (aka Jesse Munro Johnson), which is being touted as the first volume in an intended series of limited-edition twelve-inch releases showcasing the efforts of progressive Portland minds. Johnson assembled each tripped-out track on Mean Sound by building samples (of his own playing) into dizzying whirlwinds of beat swagger, horns, and synthesizers. The A-side's title cut is more than a little aptly named, considering that it rolls out a fabulous future-funk cannonball of claps, beat rumble, and bleepy synth blaze. The head-spinner couples a hammering bottom end with fireball synth blasts that roar so powerfully they could peel one's scalp. Slightly less lethal in tone, “Vetted” drags an entire video arcade's worth of bleepy smears into its bass-throbbing dub swamp. The flip finds Strategy (Community Librarian Paul Dickow) catapulting “Mean Sound” into another galaxy altogether, this one a future-funk universe where the original's elements ricochet off of one another at light speed and where the synth blaze splinters into fragments. Brain-addling too is Gulls' own alternate mix, “Mean Sound Pdx-Slight Return,” which stabs with a merciless, anvil-like intensity. The EP's tracks are sophisticated, dense, and club-ready, and disappear from view far too quickly—always a good sign. Let's hope future installments in the projected series are as good as this one.

November 2010