[sic] Magazine

Volcano! – Paperwork

Leaf Label
Review by M Henaghan

Previously billed as Leaf’s “first rock band”, Chicago-based trio Volcano! are the musical equivalent of a nervous ball of energy, bouncing all over the place, covering every conceivable angle and seemingly on the cusp of combustion. Their debut, ‘Beautiful Seizure’, gained rapturous acclaim upon release in 2006, melding influences of noise rock with free jazz and post-punk into a cohesive whole. ‘Paperwork’ finds the band considerably broadening their palette.

With an already volatile and unpredictable sound, Volcano! utilize the significant vocal gymnastics of Aaron With as well as some of the most exciting guitar trickery this side of Jonny Greenwood, an assortment of weird and wonderful organic and laptop generated effects and the abundant skills of drummer Sam Scranton, a musician well versed in Jazz percussion. Though only a three piece, Volcano! create music packed with ingredients. Very much like a rollercoaster ride, the band sway between topsy-turvy structures and jagged, half-staggered rhythms, keeping you second-guessing all the way. Within this unconventional, overly dramatic approach, strong links with melody are retained. ‘Africa Just Wants To Have Fun’, ‘a poppy little ditty in the key of B and clever shot at Bono’s ego-maniacal, culturally offensive and often ineffective philanthropy efforts’ according to the band, is a jerky, post-punk anthem that barely sits still, not even for a nanosecond. ‘Fairy Tale’ is a melodic barrage of energy, which also employs a stop-start rhythm, with the frenzied fuzz bass and guitar literally tumbling over the incessant percussion. ‘Time Loop’s’ drums, on the other hand, seem to be at least a beat and a half ahead of the rest of the instrumentation, yet somehow, by the end of the song, the band has made it all work so fluently.

Aaron With gets to show off a daredevil falsetto elsewhere, particularly on opener ‘Performance Evaluation Shuffle’ where it is delivered upon a vitriolic blend of choppy guitar, screeching feedback and pounding drums. ‘Astronomer’s Ballad’, though, is the albums piece d’resistance. It’s highly doubtful you’ve ever heard anything like this number before, as Volcano! create a Vaudevillian atmosphere, with a strong burlesque verse bursting into the most theatrical of finishes. The sort of track that sends pleasure endorphins racing towards the brain.

In an ideal world Volcano! should have ended it there, but they plough on for two more tracks. Both ‘Palimpsests’ and ‘Kitchen Device’ are intriguing tracks themselves, but they’re completely over-shadowed by the breathtaking “Astronomer’s Ballad”. It’s difficult to know where to start with Volcano!. Changing tact more often than an A.D.D sufferer ‘Paperwork’ can be exhaustive. The disconcerting time signatures, strange guitar textures and chord structures, With’s elastic vocal range and the melodramatically intense extent of styles covered may establish the band as an acquired taste. But that is just being fastidious. After all, can we really criticize them for possessing a bona fide treasure trove of talent?