Ender Belongs to Me is the pop sound art project of Andrew Alexander, who you might have heard of if you’re familiar with his DIY music hub and music review aggregate Dingus. When dealing with music that’s on this level of indie (as we at No Smoking are wont to do), there’s usually a serious commitment involved; these aren’t projects of capitalist success, but projects of personal intimacy and self-revealing. Andrew’s blog Dingus itself is an example of this commitment sans material reward – going through thousands of submissions to pull up groups who deserve it is as thankless and grueling as going on your first cross-country tour. The title of this release is “Artifacts,” and I think we’re meant to understand that these songs are a sort of personal record of a time gone by. Too Much Love Mag did an interview with Andrew a few days ago about this release, and there’s some good backstory in there (“It was after our first year at college and we had come home to find that my mother was moving and the basement where we spent the greater part of our high school careers drunk would no longer be available to us. So we took acid for a week and wrote these songs locked down there. They aren’t very good.”) as to the exact sort of artifacts these songs are trying to be (read more at Too Much Love Mag). As a last small note, all of the weird tones and pluckings and heart-rending singing on “Artifacts” was recorded by a Macbook mic and produced with Garageband, so don’t expect huge production value here. Just raw musicality.
Upon listening, we immediately get the feeling of bedroom recordings, emotional content encapsulated in rhythmic pulses and guitar melodies; every track on “Artifacts” is a personally emotive journey. “Clouding” reminds me vaguely of early Antlers tracks (on the basis of deliberate, lilting guitar plucks and minimal melodic hooks to break up serious and quiet vocal delivery) – digital streaks flit alongside the muted vocals as the song builds to its climax, female vocals pushing their way to the forefront of a messy yet somehow nostalgic soundscape. “Eden” maintains the sort of digital/artificial twang in vocal and guitar tones, but adds a more driving beat to the mix, which is a welcome change of tempo. The guitar riffs here are classic downtempo in a comfortable and welcome way, but the song is pushed into original territory by the stylistic distanced vocals and clacking percussion (African influenced downtempo, perhaps?). “Promethea” is a wonderfully pleasant interlude with the most comprehensible vocals on the whole album (“I can feel it getting warmer / snow stopped falling years ago / can’t control it anymore”) paired with plinking percussive elements which are immediately endearing and also somehow powerful. “Getting Colder” continues the lyric focus with a plucky guitar narrative that seems like homage to “Rocky Raccoon” (kept in line with the textures of “Artifacts” with what seems to be a phaser on the vocals to keep them muted and peculiar). “New Light,” the 7 minute closing track (and the first one queued up to stream on Bandcamp) is a progressive ambient journey which mixes shimmering vocal pads and synth/guitar hooks with the continual shuffling percussion characteristic of the album, making for a mystifying-yet-gratifying conclusion to a cerebral and nostalgic album.
“Artifacts” is clearly meant to convey a sort of real-life meaning — this is a physical record of experience, even if the medium is sound. With roots in heroin addiction, personal rebuilding, and also the science fiction work of Orson Scott Card (whose actions in life did NOT conform with the philosophy of his work (anti-xenophobia, but a gay hater?)), this release confidently surpasses the past to create something at least a little more timeless. You can stream the album on Andrew’s bandcamp, which also has the 2012 release “Memory.”