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Album Review: CFM ‘Dichotomy Desaturated’

Anyone who’s been paying close attention to Ty Segall’s output over the past decade has enjoyed the talents of Charles Moothart. The guitarist has not only played on several of Segall’s albums, he’s also toured extensively to support those albums. In particular, Moothart’s work with Fuzz (a band which also includes Segall and Chad Ubovich of Meatbodies) has been nothing short of career-defining.

As such, Moothart expressed concerns that those who heard his solo work as CFM would shrug and say, “Might as well just be a Fuzz song.” Yet Dichotomy Desaturated, CFM’s second album, should put such concerns to rest.

Those anticipating a full-on onslaught of guitar noise might be taken aback by Dichotomy Desaturated’s opening track, “Dichotomy.” It begins with acoustic guitar and Moothart’s dusky vocals which, instead of taking center stage, are mixed like they’re another instrument. It’s an unusual choice, but it works well with the album’s overall aesthetic.

It’s not until second track “Pinch the Dream” that we hear the familiar Moothart-style shredding. This production also reveals the way that Moothart constructs a song. Rather than verse/chorus/verse, he tends to utilize the bridge as a way to display his skills at riffage. Here, the guitar melody becomes the hook in the track, even as it veers back and forth between different time signatures, another Moothart specialty.

There’s a nearly invisible break between this song and the next one, “Lethal Look.” It starts exactly where “Pinch The Dream” left off before exploding into a wall of guitars that show up in both the left and right channels. It’s perfect for listening to on headphones while sprawled out across the floor of your bedroom.

“Rise and Fall” was the lead single released from the album and with good reason: it includes all the qualities that make CFM’s music so much fun. A stellar, 1970-ish stoner rock riff dominates the song, but there are also touches of swoony harmonies along with straight-up shredding.

Don’t fixate too much on the strangely long title of “Saline/The Man/Kind to You”; the song’s slow blues groove is not entirely unlike the first Led Zeppelin album. The somewhat more subdued approach allows the listener to pay closer attention to Moothart’s lyrics. There is plenty of evocative imagery on the album, and it has the kind of poetic appeal that marks something truly personal. To wit: “I thought her lips were soft and nice / as they crushed me like a vice.”

More bluesy goodness is found on “Desaturated,” along with blasts of guitar, heavy bass and twinkly piano, all of which lend the song an air of bemusement, sort of like remembering what happened the night before while you’re recovering from a hangover.

Those time signature shifts that Moothart does so well help both “Voyeurs” and “The Set Up” feel like songs from another time period. “Voyeurs” even ushers in some Hammond organ at the end, and if you’re reminded of The Doors, you’re not the only one. “The Set Up” should satisfy anyone wanting some heavier riffs, even as it subverts expectations by slowing down and speeding up several times.

Although “Dead Weight” may come across as an ironic title for a song that’s nearly eight minutes in length, there’s enough guitar goodness on display that it never overstays its welcome. Moothart notes the influence of both Black Sabbath and The Stooges’ Fun House on the album, and the second half of the song is where he fulfills that promise. Plus, it’s hard to resist a line like, “The bridge is ready to burn / and I’m at the stake.”

The great guitar-based melody in “Message from the Mirror” ends things on a memorable note, and you’ll be humming it for hours to come. It also shows that even though Moothart doesn’t utilize pop hooks in the way Segall does, he’s still got strong songwriting chops.

It’s almost impossible to hear CFM without thinking of Ty Segall, as Moothart’s guitar playing helped define some of his friend’s greatest work. Despite the fact that Segall played a role in this album (he played drums on “Dead Weight” and assisted with mixing and engineering), it’s nice to hear what Moothart is capable of when he ventures outside of that particular musical umbrella. Based on the music from Dichotomy Desaturated, I’d say he’s destined for greatness.

Dichotomy Desaturated was released by In the Red Records on April 7, 2017.

Less Lee Moore (@popshifter) is the Editor in Chief of Popshifter, which she founded in 2007. She also writes for Rue Morgue, Everything Is Scary, Biff Bam Pop and Modern Horrors.

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