Houston Music

Mansion

Mansion lives where atmospheric meets guttural, a place where only lo-fi can adequately express the music of its inhabitants. The band makes what has always been, and will always be known as, college music: drony, jangly, purposeful yet haphazard, drifting from loud to quiet without much fanfare in either direction.

In feetpersecond, however, the Houston group has created a far better representation of the form. Part of the record's success stems from the fact that it gives back to listeners whatever they put into it. If you want to hyper-focus on every little sound and layer, there's more than enough here, despite having been recorded on an eight-track reel-to-reel. If, on the other hand, you want simply to drift through it, the trip will occur with a speed and comfort that belie feetpersecond's 23-track length.

The album's emotional effect is similarly chameleonlike. If you're "up" when you put it on, suddenly the groove is everywhere, and rocking out seems natural. If, however, you are down or angry, the world becomes a bleak place almost instantly, with nothing but stark walls of sound for cold comfort. The opening pair of tunes, "Sleeping Bag" and "Never Was," work as either cozy/liberating or claustrophobic/despairing. Similarly malleable is the statement of finitude that is "Everyone Has to Leave."

Not a misstep is made for a huge chunk of feetpersecond's middle section. "That Last One" is simply acoustic guitar and vocals, and when "I'm not saying that you're wrong / I'm just saying you don't know anything" is sung (the CD booklet is silent as to who is singing), it really doesn't sound like a put-down. "Shut Mouth" is the record's first foray into faux house music -- snare pushed way back, processed and moving along at a quick shuffle. The feel is revisited on "Disco Internacionale," which captures the sensory pressure inflicted by getting, shall we say, "overserved," while listening to crappy dance music in a Rio disco. There's also the suitably elephantine approach employed on "Huge Ships," the near-Minneapolis indie-rock vibe of "Catapult" and a cathartic burst of guitar volume on "Butterfly Wing."

feetpersecond is Mansion's debut. The album sounds exactly like the kind of thing indie labels routinely release to the anorak-clad, espresso-sipping, retro-specs-sporting segment of today's youth. The four-year-old band's aspirations are not altogether clear, but if the goals include putting out a high-quality CD of "independent music," it should consider that mission accomplished.

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Chris Smith