Full Crumb // Maelstrom Protocol
Fall Break Records
Recommended Track: By Design and Default
It is not often that a band does not fall prey to the trappings of a particular alternative genre or aesthetic, but Full Crumb manage to embody and transcend both on their sixth album, Maelstrom Protocol (released on cassette by the Athens, Georgia-based DIY label Fall Break Records in December). This record is so rich with ideas and artistry that I don’t really know how to do it justice in writing. Every single song is different and offers something unique, and yet Maelstrom Protocol inescapably feels like a cohesive record. Full Crumb have done something remarkably rare, especially in today’s artistic climate, oversaturated as it is with a million bedroom recording projects that all, from even a few feet back, sound the same.
The album was recorded entirely on a Tascam four track tape recorder and it sounds like it. However, such Luddite technology would, in average hands, produce a work as equally simplistic as the recording process. That Full Crumb’s aesthetic is definitely lo-fi is less an artistic statement than it is a matter of technological fact. And yet, despite (or in spite) of the apparent limitations, Maelstrom Protocol is one of the most vibrant and exciting records I’ve heard in ages. A lot of bands who traffic in lo-fi tend to hide behind the film of fidelity as an insurance policy against insecurity; Full Crumb, on the other hand, embrace the format’s limitations and explode them across ten startling tracks that range from the Yo La Tengo-esque “By Design and Default” to the Microphones-y “Nocturnal Omissions” to the twelve and a half minute closer “Free Fall Viaduct” that sounds like an ecstasy-fueled rave sealed in a mason jar.
Sure, there are more traditional psych nuggets like the barely minute-long “Chrome Bisons,” whose brevity and immediacy recalls the work of Tony Molina: a pop hit without the repetitive structure. It’s astonishing how Full Crumb manage to balance an array of genres: turntablism, shitgaze, psych, dub, and even delicate, yearning folk. And within the tapestry of the record are audio clips of conversations and babblings that, rather than sounding forcibly spliced into the master tape, seem to necessarily exist within and between the songs. Maelstrom Protocol illuminates the double play of their name: they are a fulcrum upon which an eternally in flux see-saw of influences and sounds coexist; and they are also a unit simultaneously part of a whole and the whole itself (if you split a crumb in half, you still have two full crumbs).
Harold Bloom wrote about the anxiety of influence that affects (I’m extrapolating here) the artistic mind as it perceives and conceives of itself within a larger literary-historical-meta-narrative. Full Crumb are here to suggest that perhaps the weight of an entire history of influence is not necessarily the artist’s demise but rather the artist’s great ball of yarn from which he or she can spin new colors.