Illogistical Resource Dept.: Catharsis (2012)

Bio (from facebook.com/IllogisticalResourceDept):
3 Men. Countless bad ideas. Mostly instrumental.

Musicians:
Dan Menapace (Bass, Synths, Guitars, Vocals), Jim Harris (Guitars), Noa Appleton (Drums)

If you regularly read this site, the name Dan Menapace may be familiar: I previously reviewed his solo electronica effort (here), Suboculis.  Today I am checking out his band, the San Francisco based Illogistical Resource Dept. (aka the IRD), and their album CATHARSIS.  From the first seconds of the first track, “When Frogs Attack,” I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy this.  First off, the track opens with sampled dialogue from the 1972 “eco-horror” film FROGS, and that is subsequently followed by what sound like it could be a Les Claypool side project.  Campy B movies and heavy Primus influence?  You’ve got my attention.

The frogs see you...
The frogs see you…

While the first track is very “instrumental Primus” sounding, and there is a heavy Primus feel to the whole album, CATHARSIS does not come off as just a Les Claypool tribute band.  While Claypool is a weird guy, I hear something that sounds more akin to Mike Patton’s sensibilities mixed in, along with the electronica that Menapace obviously loves (Aphex Twin, µ-Ziq, and Squarepusher come to mind), and then some straight up psychedelia along the lines of older Floyd.  It is very obvious that all of the members of the IRD are very talented musicians, and even though the focus is on Menapace’s bass, his work is not let down at all by the rest of his band.

The fact that the album is mostly instrumental with some dialogue snippets from various sources appeals to me, though I know that will turn some people off.  It’s hard to write an instrumental – or at least, mostly instrumental – song that can keep people’s attention.  With regular music, the focus is almost inevitably on the singer, on the lyrics, with the music usually being a backdrop.  With CATHARSIS, the music is the focus, so extra work has to be put in to keep the songs interesting and moving along without having that lead singer guy to stare at.  Overall I think CATHARSIS is mostly successful at this; there are a few tracks that drag a bit long with little movement, there are a few riffs that repeat too many times, but as a whole the IRD does a fine job of making songs that don’t have to have eye candy at the front of the stage to keep your interest.

An IRD logo.  Nothing trippy here.
An IRD logo. Nothing trippy here.

There were no tracks on CATHARSIS that were bad, though some were not as great as others.  “Adverse Side Effects” was a bit long-winded, though a nice slow jam, and I also got a bit tired of “The Road to Giza” before it was over.  Not to say these tracks were bad – they’re not – they’re just not as good as the rest.  Many of the tracks I liked enough, but there were a few that really stood out.  First, the aforementioned “When Frogs Attack,” this was really an awesome track that would not feel out of place on Frizzle Fry or Antipop.  “Speak” is a really nice blend of the Primus aesthetic with a very Pink Floyd feel (two of my personal favorites), “Vedic Soma” takes that Mike Patton sound and blends it in with some Squarepusher realm, and “The Midshipman” may be the most Primus like of all of the tracks, but in a really good way, not in a we’re-trying-to-rip-off-their-sound way.  While the IRD reminds me of a lot of other bands, they bring these disparate influences together in a way that is very originally them; I think anyone who likes Primus will immediately gravitate to that part of their sound, but they have many layers beyond that one.

Menapace in IRD's studio
Menapace in IRD’s studio

Overall, I really enjoyed CATHARSIS.  It was a really fun album, peppered with a ton of movie and musical references that spoke to me.  It had a few bits here and there that dragged, but it’s tough to make something that is 100% on; CATHARSIS is close. Their music, like that of Mike Patton or Les Claypool, is a bit too odd for über-mass appeal, and that will keep them right in the hearts of the fans that really like what they bring to the musical table; I look forward to hearing what the IRD come up with next.
Overall 8 / 10

CATHARSIS for sale: http://www.aphagiarecordings.com/

CATHARSIS site: http://www.facebook.com/IllogisticalResourceDept

Illogistical Resource Dept.: Catharsis (2012)
Illogistical Resource Dept.: Catharsis (2012)
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