Album of the year, album of the year, album of the year. There. It has been written. Now go forth, hype machine, and proclaim that you heard it here first, in the pages of the Riverfront Times: Fog's Ether Teeth is the front-runner for album of the year -- and it's only July!
Too much hype? Most certainly. But screw it, this record is amazing, a triumph, a sublime schizophrenic sound-self-portrait that tickles and hurts and burns and soothes, all at the same time.
If you haven't already, meet Minneapolis resident (and former RFT contributor) Andrew Broder, a.k.a. Fog, a self-taught multi-instrumentalist who, if his recorded output is any indication, is one of those genius/recluse types who collects strange records and makes strange music. A product of both hip-hop and indie-rock culture, Broder creates songs that deconstruct -- no, make that eviscerate -- both styles. If Picasso had painted with music, it would sound like this: a carefully constructed blur of melodic swatches that clearly add up to something, even if we can't pin down what that something is. Skating through dense thickets of gentle ambience and delicate guitars, through vinyl scratching and broken beats, through desperate vocals with lyrics both mind-bending and heartbreaking ("One day a dump truck will dump two tons of kittens on me"), Ether Teeth is unhinged folk, experimental hip-hop, plaintive torch songs, balmy electronica. Most of all, it is Broder's captivating interpretation of the Rorschach drawing that is his mind.
Broder is obviously troubled. You can hear it in his voice when he ekes out such lines as "One day I'll seethe with ether teeth/One day we'll breathe a coelacanth tree/One day history will be but a breeze." His lyrics make about as much sense as his music; they resonate as he says them, then evaporate like, well, fog. And that is this record's thrust: It is fog, musical vapor, sounds sublimating -- guitars melting into synths melting into samples melting into epic pianos. All these qualities tie into what Broder has said about his chosen moniker, that it correlates to how he feels about his distant childhood, a past he can't quite remember.
Artful yet accessible, Ether Teeth is a rare and wonderful piece of work. Decline its genius at your own risk.