Them Squirrels - Them Scribbles
Owain Paciuszko 15/02/2009
I was going to start this review with a little paragraph explaining who/what Them Squirrels is, but once the first track of this incredible EP starts playing it's impossible to think about anything else. Opening with a looping and sinister swell of noise and a gallop of vocals speaking processed gibberish and calling operatically, in a manner similar to - if this means anything to you - the singing just before Maude enters in The Big Lebowski!? Anyway, soon the lead vocals join in and they're delightfully obtuse and the track moves into a similar kind of territory to such avant-garde acts as Animal Collective, though this joins them at their current point of merging - with consumate skill - the experimental and the pop.
Them Squirrels is the solo project of JT, drummer, co-vocalist and sometime guitar player in Attack + Defend, some of the traits of his other guise are present on Delicate Steps with its sudden changes, scuzzy riffs and repeat-repeat lyrics. JT's voice though brings a different flavour to the mix, his use of layering as well keeps things softer and generally more melodic than the equally inventive spiky pop-punk he's usually playing.
You can really hear the Battles on Behind Those Walls which plays glorious tricks with backwards vocals before turning into a psychedelic The Beatles-like trip with glitchy, erratic arrangements. Entirely put together on his own this track is the real showcase for Them Squirrels talents as not only a musician but a producer, crafting something that you can compare to others but still manages to be absolutely unique. For example Pass the Puck sounds like Radiohead but filtered through a crashing computer, played by an asylum and juxtaposed by strangely tender elements such as vibraphone, vocals and some Eastern sounding feedback; all of this over what sounds like a food mixer fighting a vaccum cleaner.
This five-track comes to a close with Out of Sight that sounds like Final Fantasy playing the theme to some The Prisoner-like TV series, all shimmering notes and spooky atmospherics. It echoes back to the first track with an industrialised variation on the once sweet vocals roll, whilst JT himself filters his voice into something similar to a clattering train. The EP ending with all the manic invention and distortion of modern composer Thomas Ades, and that should be some indication of the level of detail and skill put into this absolutely jaw-dropping EP. It's the kind of record you listen to and can tell how much effort has gone into it, yet it sounds effortless.