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The Gifts, 'Silks'

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The Gifts, Silks - COURTESY
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  • The Gifts, Silks

(Self-released, digital)

The Gifts is a moniker for the electronic experiments of Jeremy Mendicino, a Burlington resident who loves to tinker with strange gear. He's been on the music scene, locally and beyond, for many years and is probably best known as part of the whip-smart pop-rock trio Pretty & Nice. His latest LP, Silks, is a distinctive collection of utterly weird shit. That's a compliment.

The genre of "ambient" electronica is cluttered with a lot of lazy, droning work, but the Gifts is a consistently interesting operation. Silks opener "Juardo" leads with dirty synth scribbles and keeps on taking unexpected turns from there, fleshing out a soundscape that is simultaneously huge and claustrophobic. That liminal space proves to be the core of the album.

Mendicino describes the Gifts as "experimental electronic," and that's not hubris. Throughout Silks, he defies easy cliché, pushing his equipment to the limits and creating a lot of novel textures and tones along the way. Yet it's not noise for noise's sake — Mendicino is an educated student of the genre who aims to conjure something truly new.

So, while some discursions here break both sequences and time itself ("Toypno," "Beeds"), a lot of really careful composition work is buried beneath the massive effects chains. "1995," in addition to being a haunting end-credits soundtrack waiting to happen, is driven by a lovely melody. "303Hand" blends house, trap and the kind of classical ornamentation on which Aphex Twin built a career.

For most of the album, though, Mendicino operates in two modes at once: composer and technician. His production is hands-on; filters, effects levels and stereo real estate are constantly moving. Most notably, his percussion is organic, breathing in a way that the canned (and overcompressed) sounds of contemporary EDM do not. This may surprise genre fans, but I suspect it will win them over, too.

Mendicino packs a lot of ideas into each track, shifting movements, tempos and feels. Here again, his musical background shines through. That sonic variety doesn't come across as capricious ADHD. Rather, everything fits together through these transitions.

Which is not to say the man won't beat the holy hell out of his gear. On the second half of Silks, the back-to-back attack of "Drops" and "Rndng" is the closest the LP gets to a genuine wall of noise. Both tracks take their time getting there, though, and perhaps that's what most defines the album: an architectural approach. Mendicino understands the importance of bringing the listener in, setting expectations — and then flipping them upside down.

The experimental electronic genre itself is a bit inaccessible, at least compared to the more danceable strains of electronic music. Yet a few catchy synth earworms do appear on Silks. For all its broken, feedback-drenched aesthetics, the album has a lot to lure the listener in. Halfway between a home-studio demo and a transmission from the future, Silks will reward the curious.

Silks by the Gifts is available at thegifts.bandcamp.com.