Spaceships // Little Buddha
Recommended Track: I Am the Mouse King
Upon first listen no one thinks deeply, if at all, about the little gestures and thoughts and impulses that bloom into a full album. LA’s Spaceships, a reverby noise-pop duo, threw regular practice out the window in favor of flinging ideas at the wall and seeing what stuck for their self-titled EP released back in November. That EP fares pretty well conceptually and sound-wise, but on Little Buddha, Spaceships piece together sonic scraps leftover from a four year recording period that arguably have the most value to Jessica Waite and Kevin LaRose. The shout-out to Duchamp’s Fountain as their album art seems like a testament to the nature of this compilation, or at least a self-deprecating nod.
There’s a detectable intention in every one of Waite and LaRose’s impromptu tracks, and finding comfort in isolation and indecision is the clearest message across the board on Little Buddha. The most complete variant of these feelings is in shining track, “I am the Mouse King.” It feels sun-drenched and lazy with Waites appropriately wailing the barely distinguishable lines: I’m tired but I can’t sleep /No one to talk to /But I’d rather be alone. Another standout is “Room”, which is more developed and has a sunnier disposition. This track takes the bratty attitude quintessential to California pop and manages to work in a refreshing, melodic riff between verses to distinguish it amongst its many prototypes.
Which leads me to a word about my feelings towards drum machine on this LP: less is best. This album has a tendency towards being overly-curious about the role of technology, not only in production but in overall band DNA. It shows most on the second half of the album, as each song becomes difficult to finish with nothing to really reel you in. It’s apparent in these latter songs, with their diversions into more improvised phrases and heavy reliance on the sonic textures of their equipment, that production is compensating for a lack of song structure. Take “Random State” for example. The vocals have been so modified to sound metallic and “lo-fi” that it’s grating and almost industrial. Everything simply becomes a little overpowering. But that’s not to say that there aren’t genuinely interesting, enjoyable, and promising parts. There is something admirable about sharing captured so freshly out of mind and reflective.
An apology to listeners for inauthenticity or lack of self-confidence, as the band offers in a note passed along with their tape, is kind of weird for any musician or artist. But maybe it’s warranted when you feel too submerged in a community where sounds can be very homogenous and the appearance of jackin’ someone’s shit is easy. An explanation feels and is unnecessary. The possibility of Spaceships’ Little Buddha as being some kind of reconciliation bums me out because it’s intriguing to experience evolution with all of its nuances and imperfections. Their choice to veer off the beaten path in front of them and into more a more scientific method of experimentation and repeated trials shows remarkable range between this duo compared to most grungey pop there are probably pitted against. With Little Buddha being, supposedly, one of two releases in 2015, this gives a lot of hope and foreshadows the shift of Spaceships from lazy surf punk to more confident, artful noise rock.