Although Andrew Broder is from Minneapolis, Minnesota, his brain is strongly bound to Oakland, California, the place his musical soul mates, Anticon, call home. And just like Anticon, Broder is always doing something different. His 2003 full-length, Ether Teeth, released on Ninja Tune, offered an ethereal mix of sampling, instrumentation and experimentation. 10th Avenue Freakout, Fog's full-length debut on Lex, offers a similar blend of weirdness and unnatural cacophony. It's definitely different; it's just not fascinating.
Drums play a bigger role on this record than they have for Fog in the past, anchoring many songs that would otherwise float away into nothing. The plinking electro beat of "We're Winning," the lead single, glitters with handclaps and a buzzing bass line; "Can You Believe It?" sports a slow drum beat that sounds like someone kicking a trashcan down the street. But the most affecting tune on the album, "O Telescope," doesn't have any percussion of any kind: Broder's quiet voice sits alongside an acoustic guitar for a disarmingly gorgeous song.
These moments are few and far between, however. "The Small Burn" lets notes linger in the air to be forgotten, just before a punishing electronic malfunction drowns them in a puddle of repellent noise. Broder's nasally vocals don't help. His lyrics touch on anything he can think of -- so long as there's almost no logical connection between the ideas. The lyrical obtuseness does lend a strangely poetic quality to the vocals, but it doesn't invite any identification to lines like "There's a neon pink werewolf suspended above the ceiling of the sunken sunset sky."
Now, "different" is undoubtedly important. Without people doing new things and challenging the status quo, we'd have no hope of anything ever improving. Fog has an ear for new sounds, but plodding collages of sound have been done plenty of times by now. 10th Avenue Freakout will test your definitions of music, but it'll probably make you put on the new Kelly Clarkson record when you're done.
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