Defender (promo 2000, CDR)
From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)
Defender are a new group from Chicago who don't even have an official release out yet, but this 70-minute compilation of material indicates that they should have a record deal very soon. Even more impressive is that all the members are 25 years-old and under. Defender is the future!
The first two tracks ("Feel It", Parts 1 and 2) are the shortest of the disc, ranging between 3-5 minutes each. They're both pretty straight-forward rockers which I guess are fairly "Post-Rock"-ish (still not sure I know exactly what that means, but the bass is prominent, the guitar is distorted and punkish, and the drums are at times very busy with fills, if not jazzy). These tunes are solid, but don't get to develop much. It's definitely when the group is using keyboards and focusing a while on a meditative riff that they're at their best. Such is track 3, "Orangutangs and Spookhouses" (or "Orangutangs and Orphanages", if you go by the live intro on the disc), which completes the live segment of the disc. The Space-Rock here is of a very organic nature, so I urge anyone who identifies with that label to check these guys out. The tune starts out with hypnotic/echoed guitar licks, keyboard lines and a foot-tapping drum-beat as an intro before morphing into an exquisitely spacey keyboard riff which changes keys as another organ riff counterpoints it beautifully. The tune continues with a more Hawkwind-ish sounding squiggle-synth jam and a high-energy finish. Simple but perfect.
Next is a track called "Post Rock" which contains drastically different segments, though I'm not sure they all fit together that well. First you're blasted with some screaming industrial-noise, then a very melodic harpsichord/piano/acoustic-guitar piece... then it's back to another noise/chaos-fest with freaky synth and bizarre samples... then a pretty decent live jam which builds in speed and intensity. All in 12 minutes. It's an experiment but one which hopefully will lead them to better results in the future. Next is "Sin the Sizer", a cheesy title if there ever was one, but one of the three masterpieces spread throughout the disc. It consists basically of two segments, the first of which uses a nice repetitive Harmonia/Cluster-like keyboard riff before blasting into an ascendent slab of mellotron, active drum-fills and a simple but catchy keyboard line. "Heat" is a slow, comtemplative jam led by a repeating bass-line and tom-toms for well over ten minutes; it might be a bit lengthy, but after a few listens begins too catch on with its relaxing mood and softly shifting space-synth. The piece ends with another switch, picking up the pace with another rising jam. The whole track lasts over 20 minutes in all. The closing track "Zipcode" is a fantastic power-mantra, beginning slow again, then hitting you with a simple but powerful drum-beat, inviting some more of that organ to frolic around it for a while... then there's a drastic shift which comes along with a quirky New Wave/later-Kraftwerk keyboard line... then into a fantasticly epic building finish. These guys are serious. Be good to yourself and contact them.
For more information you can email Defender at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact via snail mail c/o Defender; 785 N Lakeside; Wheeling, IL 60090/email.
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg