Greenpot Bluepot – Ascend The Dead EndPosted by Allen Huang
“As an artist, I’ve always needed to challenge myself – even if it means I’ll fail or make something laughably bad – this is what it means to be ‘experimental’.” – Natalie LeBrecht (BoingBoing.net, 2/10/12)
LeBrecht, known to the Tumblr world as Greenpot Bluepot, might not be a familiar name to some ears. But in her native Brooklyn, she is a star of the scene, her own biography dubbing her a “one-person subculture.” There is nothing wrong with a little chest-puffing when it comes to how scene one might be, especially in a city like New York. But when your own bio calls you out as a specifically unique flower in the biggest city in the world, equipped with charisma and presence incomparable except to the likes of say Nico or Yoko Ono (or someone else of equal infamy), the record better be damn amazing.
Unfortunately, it is not. Ascend the Dead End is fascinated, enchanted with the idea of strange. But it itself is not all that strange. LeBrecht pulls influences from Middle Eastern music, juxtaposing aboriginal tones with the hi-lo-fi of collaborator, Avey Tare (Animal Collective). Interesting textures are accessed; motifs are presented as possibility. But nothing is integrated, nothing is actually explored. Ascended is satisfied with tasting, not consuming.
Injecting ethnomusicology into pop music has become increasingly more common. Ariel Pink’s “Reminiscences,” a cover of an Ethiopian pop song was one of the best tracks on the Before Today record; Japanese band Mariah combined Armenian folk song with the electro-funk of Yellow Magic Orchestra with surprisingly addictive results. The key is that they were not afraid to hit “blend,” reinterpreting a genre of music they obviously enjoyed with their own means, adding spirit and, yes, true uniqueness to the music. But Ascend the Dead End does not attempt such sonic gymnastics, sounding more like a book report on foreign tones than actual appreciation.
With LeBrecht–as with Avery Tare–is this overwhelming emphasis on distance, a deliberate separation from the performance, from the song, and from the ideas that the songs attempt to convey. LeBrecht’s crime is not a lack of honesty (her search for “weird” seems genuine), but rather a palpable lack of commitment to the prestige of this attempted magic trick. Ascend is a challenge, but in execution it’s a race run at half-speed. Thus, LeBrecht reaches neither explosive failure or sublime success, but rather falls into the chasm of crippling mediocrity. And to sound so satisfied with the simple strides made on Ascend The Dead End is just disappointing.