Saturday, February 27, 2010

Well after this, I should think nothing of falling down stairs.

Deepest. Rabbit. Hole. Ever.

So when I said "tomorrow" I guess I meant "in three days". But you should really give me a break because HOLY SHIT is there a lot to go over here. This record is not the end of the line as far as the Badass Express is concerned; there are about a million stops along the way, and likely many more to come. This band is connected to that band which is connected to this other band and so on and so on, as far back as 1991 (probably earlier, but I've only had two days - during which I was all full of lazy - to research this crap). I doubt I'll have much time to talk about many of these bands in this post, but I'll have tons to say later. As for the record in question - so friggin' much to talk about.

Since I bought it, I have listened to this record from beggining to end about 5 times a day. I'm already about halfway through my third listen today, and it's not even 9AM yet. It has gone with me into every building or vehicle I've entered and has been shoved into just about any available disc-playing apparatus in my line of sight. I've nagged my girlfriend, my roommate, my ex-roommate, her boyfriend and a co-worker to listen to this band, and I've sent numerous messages to people over the Internet encouraging them to dig on this record. It's really that good. I haven't been this excited about a band since I first gave Lifter Puller's "Fiestas & Fiascos" a good once-through. But the proof is in the pudding, and you look hungry. So without further ado (for the time being anyway... don't want to go making promises we all know I can't keep), I give you !!drumrolldrumrolldrumrollCYMBAL!!! Das Boton! Bitches.
Das Boton - Bon Ham

Das Boton - Vic Firth

Just in case you didn't read the post just prior to this one, this record is called "Soda Drip". The disc (CD only... suck) is available for purchase directly from the label at A download is also available from the iTunes store for about $8 at I'd recommend throwing down the extra couple of bones for the actual CD. The album art is excellent (see post from Friday). If you're a personal friend of mine, I'm willing to toss out some mp3s via email or something, but I don't want to dissemminate free copies of these songs all willy-nilly to strangers and such. These guys are career musicians, and I'm guessing they don't make much bank on record sales. They deserve your nickles and dimes. So as long as there isn't already an easily accessible download for this record, I think I'll just let it stay that way as long as it can.

First I should probably say who does what in the band, as I'll probably be talking about individual members pretty often in the following paragraphs. Das Boton is:

Ryan Rapsys on drums
Bill Dolan on guitar
Karl Ropp on bass

If you know anything about local Chicago music during the 90s, you may remember Bill Dolan. He was the guitarist in such bands as 5ive Style and Heroic Doses, both of which I was totally unaware until yesterday, which is unfortunate, because they're really pretty great. It seems the guy is somewhat of a giant in Chicago's local scene, and has been for this entire current decade and the greater part of the last. And rightly so, as he is one of the most proficient guitarists I've ever heard in modern music. His riffs are solid, he knows how to use (and how not to OVERuse) his wah, he uses pitch harmonics tastelfully, and he doesn't overshadow the rest of the band. He's also just technically proficient, which sounds boring, but makes all the difference in the way the band sounds. For interested guitarists, he's got some tutorial peices on that are extremely useful. Use as a springboard. But the thing I admire most about this guy is that he knows when to shut up. Knowing when not to play has always seemed, to me, like an admirable quality in a lead musician, though I almost hesitate to call him the lead because...

...Ryan Rapsys OWNS on this record. His playing is ridiculously tight and in-synch with the rest of the band. He sticks to the bass on his lows and sort of plays around with the guitar on his highs. He mutes his cymbals left and right, but somehow manages not to make it sound repetetive and gaudy. He definitely under-plays his strengths, resulting in a modest sound that really compliments the rest of the band without pushing them in one direction or another. He is definitely not the band's metronome, as many drummers in independent bands are. He knows his place in this musical machine, and doesn't drum to impress, though there are times when you almost don't notice how complicated the rhythm he's playing is until the guitar and bass let up just enough to make the drums pop a little. Watching him play makes the band just that much better. His movements are precise and quick. It's almost like watching an athlete, there's so much physical control involved. He also plays drums for Euphone and does a bunch of his own solo stuff - mostly brainy, mathy techno. I'm not too keen on his other projects, but that's just because there isn't a lot of techno I like. I know... Squarepusher is awesome, Aphex Twin was crazy innovative, blah blah blah. I'm not saying it sucks. I just really hate most of it (Aphex Twin's "Goon Gumpos" excepted). But I digress. This guy is definitely my favorite member of the band.

I haven't checked out much about Karl Ropp yet, but I did find out that he's part of a Rockford, IL-based pop rock band called "The Snaggs". They're really pretty good, and they have a song called "Hipsters" that I feel will help me deal with living in an area almost entirely saturated with snotty rich(ish) kids with questionable musical interests and ridiculous taste in clothes. The vocals are a bit cheesy, as are some of the guitar riffs, but that seems to have been the aim, and for what it is, this band is really quite listenable. Plus, some of the guitar riffs are really great, and more than a little unexpected in context. It probably won't become one of my favorites, but I'll be listening again for sure. As for his contribution to Das Boton, Karl Ropp is really sort of a background musician on the record. I'd like to see them live, because I get the impression that he's much better than the justice this recording fails to do him would suggest. He also sticks to the other instruments like glue and melds his sound with the rest of the noise going on. He really does a great job filling out the low tones in this band, which seems like an obvious thing for a bassist to do, but I'm surprised at how many bassists don't seem to grasp the concept when playing music like this. Everyone wants to play lead whatever. This guy's okay with dropping back a bit, and that makes him okay in my book.

In summary, I can't get enough of this shit. It's this crazy mashup of oldschool funk, R&B (as in Little Richard... not Toni Braxton), surf and maybe even a little psych/garage. Once in awhile, it gets a little Jimmy Hendrix-ish when Bill Dolan really gets going, then they drop back into mellow Ventures-Play-Telstar style surf, then cut off all at once, picking back up again a second later with a nice peppy 4/4 rock riff. During some of the songs - most notably during "Vic Firth" - they get a little more modern and play some darker, heavier bits that remind me a lot of The Sound of Animals Fighting's album "Tiger & The Duke", only slower, more technical and more musically diverse. The versatility of this band is amazing. Throughout all of the key changes and style-shifting, they manage to make the whole shebang sound totally cohesive. This is what I think music needs right now. Better blending, more bands drawing from the knowledge and experience of other bands from different backgrounds, and most importantly, a solid understanding of how to use their instruments and write songs. This shit RULES and if you don't buy this record, you're out of you fucking mind. It's probably the best record to come out of 2009 as far as instrumental projects are concerned. And if my endorsement means anything, it's definitely my favorite record of last year. You need this record like I will need to punch you in the neck if you don't listen to it. Don't want to get punched in the neck? Then buy the record. You get good music and no neck-punches. It's a win-win. I don't even know why you're still reading this. Hello? Hello? Have I been talking to myself this whole time? Shit.

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