Gurgel Guew’s “Kicking & Sleeping” — A Music Review
So apparently I review music now. Not exactly sure how this happened, as I do not know much about music, or at least not enough to consider myself a worthy critic. However, a CD fell into my hands about a month ago, and I have been clutching it every second since. Let it also be noted that I am Gurgel Geuw’s #1 fan, which may mean:
a. This review can be biased at times
b. I have found pleasure in embracing the concept of art over craft.
c. I have listened to this album over 30 times, which makes me the best candidate to write the first review.
d. I feel from the bottom of my heart that if people would be able to give this album 2 or 3 chances, it will catch on, and a fanbase will follow.
To offer a brief history, Gurgel Guew is a duo that consists of Trevor “Turkish” Gates and Micah “Slappy Slim” Van Voorst. Trevor has been known to play the bass for multiple local groups, such as Juxtapose, NBA Jam Session, and The David Stebbens Experience. Micah has been honing his craft for many years, and is known by some as one of the best MCs in the greater Grand Rapids area. Together, they made their first album, “Basket + Ball”, which was released in February 2009. It saw an extremely limited pressing, and may be best known for the tracks “Crazy Like Artest”, “Meat Locker”, and “Sikma”, which were all featured in the first BfD film production, “Underscore”. I always had mixed feelings about the first album, as it had it’s moments, the dragging dragged, and as a whole, it felt inconsistent and mildly annoying. Trevor and Micah took a different path in creating “Kicking & Sleeping”, as the musical range is greater, the beats are fatter, the arc is more clear, and the annoyances are at a sheer minimum. Although I encourage the purchase of this album when actual copies get pressed, I have included links to download every song (which will expire on March 16), so that you all can know what I’m actually talking about.
The album starts off on a mellowy schizophrenic tone with the first track, Ramon Sessions. It’s a standard beat complete with a funky repetitive bass line and the sounds of birds chirping. The atmosphere is confusing, but ultimately, it’s a decent head-nodder. In the end, it’s nothing to put on a mix-tape to send to your ex-girlfriend. It’s one of the more forgettable tracks, but it’s smooth and fun listening that sets a tone for the rest of the album.
The album drives forward through the set of instrumentals with Sonic Clithairs. I remember being a child and playing Sonic the Hedgehog. I always envisioned the Spring Yard Zone to be an actual predicition of the future. I was going to wake up someday, and the sky would be purple. My roof would turn into a bubble dome, and there would be strange flashing lights everywhere. Most importantly, there would be constant music, and it would sound a lot like this song. The hook is extremely danceable, and more than suitable if you are a man on a mission. The beat screams out a cool sense of urgency, like a jogger wearing an Armani suit and Ray Bans. It’s just fucking fantastic. Listen to it, and feel privileged.
The instrumentals continue with Butthair Late Too, which is a track that will draw the proverbial line in the sand. If you are able to find genius in this song, you will enjoy the rest of their works, guaranteed. If you find yourself to be annoyed to death, Gurgel Geuw just might not be your thing. For me, this song has caused neck spasms, as I violently bang my head to the extremely repetitive beat. I feel that this song is a mental test. One of the main features of their previous album was that most of the songs would test the patience of the listener. The concept of art over craft comes into play here. Although what is being done might not be classified as “good music” or “talented”, they create ideas behind it to cover it up. In result, a lot of songs are made to be annoying on purpose, but what anybody doesn’t expect that repeated subjection to these songs will infect the brain of the listener. I hated this song at first, but then i would eventually spend days on end with the beat stuck in my head. Like, literally, stuck. It is now one of my favorite tracks. These things just happen. On a side note, I have miraculously listened to this song 4 times while driving through atrocious weather conditions. This song is made for these circumstances, as it provides courage to face the storm ahead of you, and it increases concentration. Don’t ask me how this happens, but it is very very true.
The set of instrumentals close out with Chakedarrooom, which could probably be considered as another throwaway track. The beat is palatable, and the length is right, but it seems to be one of those songs that goes into my ear and out the other. This song could go well with a game of dice or watching Terminator on mute, but neither of those things hardly ever occur in my life. Therefore, this song is irrelevant to me. Regardless, this could be enjoyed by some, as it is on par as a typical Gurgel Geuw fare. It just doesn’t make my penis as hard as the other tracks do.
The album progresses into a different direction, with their lighthearted electro-folk tune, Haircut Boy. If this song doesn’t put a smile on your face, you have no soul. It is a story about a boy with a really bad haircut and no friends that goes on to play the guitar at open mic nights, eventually finding the sense of boyhood that he never had. It is based on a true story of lies, and although it helps to know the real story behind the song, I feel that this tune can be enjoyable to any listener. This song also introduces Gurgel Geuw’s vocal stylings, which can be described as a form of awkward mumbling. Every word is presented out of tune, and in a strange conversational tone. Their format takes a little while to get used to, but when it catches on, you find yourself begging for more.
They shift into a mood of funky panic with Lickety Split. This is a song that gets into my head whenever I am trying to do something quickly. There are obvious influences of 70’s funk music, with a chill break down of a bridge, only to go back into it’s state of stress. This one would be very appropriately placed in a blaxploitation film or a high school football highlight reel. Need I say more? No, I don’t. Their next track, Bears Live There, is a somewhat difficult pill to swallow. It features a sample of an extremely high-pitched and distorted voice, that constantly asks if a “bear shits in the woods”. I would say, of course, bears shit in woods. Where else would they go? This song is pointless. But on the upside, it’s one of the shortest, and does feature a pretty decent guitar backing.
Into Your Heart is Micah’s singing showcase. It’s a very simple story about love and loss, which a bunch of allusions to the game of baseball. I was told in a drunken interview that the song actually originated from a decade ago, as Micah wanted to create a song to poke fun at the direction that rock music was going at the time. The song was recently touched up to provide a more suitable accompaniment, which includes Trevor’s “sad man” vocal harmonies. Although Micah’s faux-Creed voice is close to spot on, it doesn’t feel as relevant today as it would have then. Now, it is more reminiscent of something that would be sung by a Muppet, which is also completely fucking awesome. It’s very easy to lose all sense of pride and belt out the words to this song in public. It would be great for karaoke or serenading a stripper that is into baseball a Creed/muppets. I have actually sung this song multiple times already without having the actual track back it up. It’s just that fun. Like I said before, their matter-of-fact style of line delivery is incredibly addicting, as is this song.
I first heard Really Repetitive months before the album dropped, and needless to say, I was floored by it’s intelligent simplicity. In this track, they not only critique pop culture, but also themselves and life in general. If there were people out there that hated Gurgel Geuw, this would be their hate anthem. Not only is the beat repetitive, but the lyrics are as well, as they basically name off things going on in the room and call them repetitive. Some may call it lazy, but I call it smart, as they feel that EVERYTHING is repetitive, so you might as well start the list with the first things that come to mind. Very soon, I am planning on making a video for this tune. It’s going to be quite repetitive, and feature Ronald McDonald, or possibly Trevor dressed as Ronald. I haven’t decided yet. I have nothing but time. Either way, this is one of the more catchy songs you can find on this album. Listen with care.
It really seems like Mai Di Ba Di was supposed to be a B-Track from Beck’s “Odelay” album. Not only does this note a direct source of influence, but it also shows that their strange talent is at times on par with Beck. The hook is one of the funkiest that money can buy, and it offers deliciously strange clips of distortion, with a hint of middle eastern voices. I can tell that a lot of work has gone into this track, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Also, it features once again the signature mumbles. They tend to hide in the layered background, as they function as part of the bassline. Don’t ask me how this works, but it does. And that’s all I care about. This song just…works…
The duo switches into the heavy metal realm with Shuttin’ The Lights Down. It functions as a documentation of the story of the Chupacabara. The telling voice drones on and on with a menacing tone, and the music slowly builds up to an explosion during the chorus. Although this is their only attempt at this genre of music, they seem to succeed very well, as all the live instruments are well synced with decent recordings of each. When I was first introduced to this song, I was given the instructions to only listen to it at a really high volume. I have taken this advice every time since. It’s a headbanger, and the story is actually quite hilarious, even if you aren’t a fan of the mythical creature. With lines such as “Part dog, part rat, part kangaroo — take that animal to the zoo”, the song puts an angry smile on my face guaranteed. This is also one of their more accessible songs, as it reaches across sub-genres.
Pop Culture’s In Remission can only be described as a fun-filled rap ballyhoo that double-functions as a critique of society. There are many things to pull from this song, from the driving guitar that utilizes a filter most commonly known with Ween, to Trevor’s homage to David Bowie inside the sub-chorus. The song opens with a rap verse from Trevor, then Micah takes a shot, followed by fellow NBA Jam Session member, Robnasty. Their rhymes are creative and addicting (how many times do I have to say addicting???), with lines like “Stop biting, it’s not Shark Week”. It feels like a nice break from most rap music that is produced today, or at least on par with other underground rap acts. It does sadden me that there aren’t any other songs like this on the album, as I would have loved to hear a couple of more collaborations with Robnasty. The three of them have very distinctive rapping styles, which is showcased in all of their solo projects, but it’s a special thing to hear them all together in one cohesive and nod-worthy song.
Ohio Silver kicks off another set of instrumentals, with this one being focused on the Lone Ranger. It sounds like the beat is actually riding a horse, and is pretty interesting. Fancy Beats is one of the more accessible instrumental tracks, and is highly entertaining. The album comes to a close with SLO-MAN, which is a driving instrumental that showcases a sample of my favorite ODB song, “Brooklyn Zoo”. Highly danceable, somewhat entertaining, ect. ect. ect. ect.
The CD I was given also featured 2 raw sets of raps, but I am not sure if they are actually going to be included on the album when it gets pressed, as it was not featured on the tracklist.
I have gone for a long time talking about this album. This shows that it has at least had this much effect on me, so maybe you SHOULD give this a chance. I will state again, this music is not for everybody. You have to embrace the ideas behind the songs, as most of them are difficult to listen to until infection occurs. I have subjected this to a few people, with negative results at first, but if the subjection is repeated, it has proven to grow and grow and grow. Call me insane, but I feel like this is a refreshing break from the other formulaic music that is being made today. Even through it’s low points, it can be easily seen that this album will be remembered if given a listen, regardless if the experience is positive or negative.
So let me entice you one more time: Listen to this album. Give it a chance. If you don’t like it but see some potential in it, listen to it again. The potential will release when the hooks start engulfing your mind. Now I am not an avid listener of local music, but I feel that this is one of the most diverse, memorable and complete albums I have yet to hear from a local artist. If it’s not your thing, then it’s not your thing. but regardless, it must be recognized that Trevor and Micah are trying to do something different to music, and succeeding on some strange level.
If you are interested in purchasing the actual CD, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so then I can be an unofficial distributor.