This blog has taken almost as many twists and turns, often in opposite directions of Gilbert–while I was covering folk-pop, Gilbert was fronting the maximalist art-rock zaniness that is Hectorina. But our paths have (perhaps temporarily?) reunited.
LKBD Instrumentals is a composerly set of electronic, soundscape, and piano instrumentals. Independent Clauses covers instrumental music, including electronic work, soundscapes, and piano-led compositions. (Also jazz, which there is little of in LKBD. But maybe a future iteration will bring that along too!) So it’s a match.
The primary thrust of the album is seven instrumental versions of tracks that came from a project called I’ll Be the Lakebed that–well, I’ll let Dylan tell it:
I’ll Be the Lakebed was originally conceived as a live performance art piece, but due to COVID-19 all shows and tour plans were cancelled. The project then pivoted into a visual album, beginning with a series of singles and music videos, later released as a full film, and now as an instrumental album. LKBD instrumentals consists of 7 instrumental versions of songs from the I’ll Be the Lakebed album and 2 short unreleased tracks used for the opening and end credits of the visual album/film, creating a sort of alternate universe and further expanding the world of I’ll Be the Lakebed.
With the complicated origin story behind us, let’s jump into the sound. LKBD Instrumentals is not easy listening–these are challenging pieces. After a short, glowing, major-key intro that very much sounds like the electronic equivalent of an orchestra tuning up, “Moving Forward (Instrumental)” is an slow, icy, stark, spartan electronic piece that makes the listener feel every staccato bass and snare hit. The conclusion unveils a sort of ominous maximum-slow-jam. By sudden contrast, “Arlington Hotel (Instrumental)” is a traditional big-celestial-synth-washes ambient track; the deeply legato piece is pretty jarring after the intensely separated prior track. “Boneyard” returns to the staccato electronics and amps it up by distorting everything and turning the piece into a grim, grimy industrial track (complete with industrial siren). “New Prayer” yanks the listener back into quiet work, but the solo piano performance is dissonant and discordant.
I’m not going to lie, I considered passing on this release after the multiple instances of sonic whiplash. But the 4:17 of “Scrolling (instrumental)” is basically a Clams Casino jam and the longest track thus far in the record, giving the listener a reprieve. This tune is a brilliant slice of dark, ambient-influenced instrumental hip-hop; I would have loved to hear more of this. Instead, Gilbert goes further into his muse and comes out with a tune that sounds like the wash synths of “Arlington Hotel (Instrumental)” turned inside out and stapled onto a slow-core hip-hop beat with absolutely tooth-rattling bass. That track, “Untethered (Instrumental)”, is both an obvious extension of the work that has come before it and a mindbending new take.
Yet there are even more tricks up his sleeve: “Epochs (Instrumental)” takes the formula of “Untethered” (weird synth washes, bass for days, slo-mo beats) and adds guitars and ghostly vocals to it, creating an absolutely unique and fascinating sound. These last three tracks are truly the reason to listen to this collection; while still not overtly accessible, they are brilliantly conceived and performed compositions that are highly worth the time of adventurous listeners. These are followed by the two-minute outro: a sort of humble goodbye via a humble, tinny Casio-esque ditty played over a sea of whirling static. Overall, this is a fascinating, challenging, intriguing set of pieces for those who like instrumental hip-hop, industrial music, and (I say this affectionately) weird stuff.
Anything that gets done during COVID is such an achievement that the credits are even more valuable to note. Gilbert wrote, performed, produced and arranged all the songs at his home, his parents’ house and his studio space at Goodyear Arts. His father Greg Gilbert helped with engineering, while Justin Aswell did post-production, mixing and mastering. The artwork and design of the entire project, including the LKBD instrumentals album art, was put together by graphic designer Amanda Johnson, with photography by Amy Herman, and Art Direction/Costume Design/Set Design by Sarah Ingel.
LKBD instrumentals drops today, Nov 6, on Bandcamp and everywhere you stream music.