Have you ever eaten durians? Or, perhaps more importantly, have you ever smelled them? In this reviewer’s experience, the latter typically precludes the former because, simply put, the fruit’s odor is profoundly foul. Or, as that bastion of communal misinformation Wikipedia puts it, the aroma of durians “has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine and gym socks.” Yep. Or, as foodie Anthony Bourdain says, after eating durians, “Your breath will smell as though you had been French kissing your dead grandmother.”
The thing is, though the thorny fruits — picture a studded Nerf football — generally offend delicate Western olfactory senses, they are considered a delicacy in many other parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia. The debut EP from live electronica trio Durians, Adrenochrome Gnome, suggests the Brooklyn-based but Burlington-born band may embody a dichotomy as divisive as that of their odiferous namesake — a rare delight to some, uncomfortably exotic to others.
“Coral” cracks the EP’s husk, releasing the slightest waft of the experimental dance fare to come. Durians craft a breezily atmospheric soundscape using an amalgam of electronic and organic instruments. Eli Chalmer coaxes round, warm tones from both electric recorder and trombone, as drummer Ryan Ramirez propels the song forward with near metronomic precision. Here, Nick Kirshnit’s pulsing bass line works almost as a limiter, holding Ramirez’s astonishing breakbeat just under the speed limit.
“Nubb” pulls Durians’ husk open, exposing the aromatic flesh beneath its thorned skin. Over a slow-and-low beat from Ramirez, the band concocts a bitches’ brew of sinister sounds, led first and foremost by guest instrumentalist Leon Gruenbaum.
Gruenbaum plays an instrument he invented, the Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheepeeeee, a sonic curiosity based on the concept of relative pitch. Chalmer counters on the Lunchbox, essentially a souped-up theremin, invented by Montpelier composer Nicole Carroll. The combined effect is abrasive and unwieldy, yet compelling.
“Fluids” is the most melodically accessible cut on the EP. Nimble, crystalline chimes dance against a swelling backdrop of synth, pirouetting with Chalmer’s lithe trombone. It’s a soothing sonic bubble bath, Epsom salts for the ears.
“Killing Live Music” is Durians’ most overt juxtaposition of natural and electronic sounds, melding the two aesthetics into a hypermelodic cyborg. It is an ambitious and highly danceable experiment, recalling STS9 at their most electro, or perhaps Daft Punk at their most organic.
High in sugar content, durians (the fruit) are best in small doses. Durians (the band) impose no such restrictions on the listener. In fact, the EP’s strongest cut is its 16-minute finale, “Chemically Castrated.” Adventurous, playful and more than just a little strange, the aurally aromatic song is Durians in microcosm.
Durians stink up the joint — in a good way — this Saturday at Montpelier’s Positive Pie 2 and Sunday at Radio Bean in Burlington.