We’ve gained control again

Pub date September 2, 2009
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

NIGHTDREAM NATION New waves — or should one say Wavves? — of noise pop keep arriving this year. The latest one to splash up against my ears is also undoubtedly one of the best. Night Control’s debut album Death Control (Kill Shaman) is the type of recording that keeps on giving, thanks in part to the fact that its stylistic breadth matches its great length. Over the course of 19 songs and around 75 minutes, Christopher Curtis Smith traverses tremolo-laden terrain, distorted rave-ups, and synth-laden space ballads, with the occasional movie-of-your-mind instrumental passage thrown in for maximum seduction. The result is equally great to listen to on headphones or while shooting the shit with friends.

Listening to Smith’s ultra-vivid scenes, it’s hard not wonder if 2009 has been possessed by the spirit of 1989, as if that year’s pinnacles of youthful dream pop birthed sonic babies coming of age today. The likes of Wavves, Crystal Stilts, Crocodiles, Kurt Vile, and even the more commercially appealing Girls all have obvious ties to 20 years ago, and Night Control is no different. Like Vile in particular, Smith’s project also has the droll, play-it-cool, literally distant vocal and instrumental shadings of Flying Nun bands such as the Chills and the Clean — another vogue revival sound of the moment. Add in the fact that control is a word with currency, thanks to Blues Control, and it all might seem too perfectly with it. The thing is, Smith’s music is more evocative if not downright emotionally potent than all the aforementioned groups. The lore around Death Control is that it’s just a small sample from years of recordings that Smith either kept to himself or self-released under the name Crystal Shards. It’s believable when you hear these obsessive tunes that in turn hypnotize you into obsessive listening.

It’s all a pleasurable puzzle, a bit like Death Control‘s soft focus cover image, a public bathroom mirror self-portrait by Smith that looks as if it was taken with an iPhone held just right to completely block out his facial features. Connected to disposable technology, artfully generic, and yet enigmatic — that’s Night Control.