There are some records that more or less convince you that you need to be on some sort of drug to fully understand them. People claim Pink Floyd fits into this description, that Isis fits into this description, but I’ve found both of those bands to be really enjoyable without any sort of drug-induced feeling to listen. Velella Velella, well, not so much.
The Bay of Biscay is equal parts sample, instrumental beauty, and obnoxious rave music. Depending on the song, or even the minute of any given song, what you’re liable to hear is a veritable crap shoot. “A Hard Egg Time” sounds not unlike a page right out of the Mercury Program’s vibraphone textured book, while “A Bit of the Whirlwind, Buddy” has a decidedly Carribbean feel to its mixture of canned beats and loops. The twinkle of a xylophone then turns into the repeated sounds of squelching and some unidentifiable noises in the background. This is where the drug part comes in.
Why? The song had a perfectly good, carefree vibe to it, one that evoked some concrete imagery and held a very relaxed feel to it. Now, it does occur to me that Velella Velella doesn’t want to be following any sort of conventions, that’s fine, but certain choices have to be questioned, that being one of them. If it’s noise for the sake of it, fine, but the interruption of what was a good song halfway through seems counterproductive. The record is largely inconsistent, but to their defense, I don’t think there’s a set way on how to structure a record like this. There’s no “norm,” no “average,” it has to be left up to the artist discretion in hopes that it will work. Some hit, some miss.
The jaunty rhythm of “So Much for What’s His Face” is a musical bout of stuttering, with some distant sounding vocals repeating the same word over and over in the background, all the while the one solitary bleep is ingraining itself in your head, pushing further and further every second, almost to the point of convulsion. “That’s a Terrible Name for a Song” is a bit less of a sensory overload, more a return to the form of a band who sounds like the Mercury Program. That, I like. The fluid textures put you in a dream like state, a state of complacency that not a lot of other music can provide.
An electronic concept album of sorts, Biscay is a melting pot of an immeasurable variety of computer-induced sounds and samples. There are rare cases of actual instruments being played on the record, and they help to add a more human quality in whichever song they do appear. I think the best advice I can give to myself or anyone else, is to take the wise words of the Snoop D O Double Gizzle to heart, and before throwing this record on, “we gonna smoke an ounce to this...”