Lucky Dragons: Dream Island Laughing Language
Lucky Dragons have never been easy to listen to. Armed with glitchy, abstract nanosampling, Luke Fischbeck makes music collages that often sound like a well-stocked laptop speaking at you in musical tongues. The music is, however, frequently quite pretty: skitter and skip gives itself up for brief passages of more palatable melody, like a dry sun-bathed patch of grass surrounded by chaotic, overgrown jungle, or like your car radio picking up a station for a half-minute before returning to scanning through faintly received frequencies.
And as the albums have progressed, Lucky Dragons has grown even prettier. (Notably, over the past couple of years, his live show has been nothing but pretty; Fischbeck's performance "Make a Baby," which got him into the 2008 Whitney Biennial, consists of audience-triggered New Age-y drones.) The 2004 EP Norteñas, which sampled largely from a traditional northern Mexico musical style, was difficult, to say the least. And 2006's Widows, a wickedly satisfying smear of cut and sampled American folk sounds--hand drums, banjo, bowed strings, and wild hoots and hollers--was still a bit too fresh-from-the-lab to make much of a dent with even the ballsier of indie audiences.
Fischbeck's microsampling aesthetic still drives Dream Island Laughing Language, but it is more palatable and creepy, inching even closer to the Books sound that has been haunting Lucky Dragons' output since the beginning. "Band Hammer" is genuinely subdued--as in, nothing's going to leap out at you gabbering loudly after 30 seconds--a sad haunt of a song with mixed-down guitar and hand drum setting a base for Fischbeck to sing earnestly/intone somberly and wordlessly. For two minutes, the steady one-two beat of "I Keep Waiting for Earthquakes" could be well at home in a nightclub--frigging trance music!?--before unraveling into a nest of hopelessly off-key recorders. "Typical Hippies" (nice) is a zone-out track of patched tribal drum and owl hoots, while "Mirror Friends" could find a home on Ninja Tune. While Fischbeck's music has always been for the people in a very unique way--it's their music after all, just chucked into a particle accelerator--this is the record that folks-at-large will actually want to listen to.