As the band members’ pedigrees suggest, Tears of a Clone is a delightfully unclassifiable album. Icy Demons is led by Chicago-based bassist/producer/multi-instrumentalist Griffin Rodriguez of Bablicon and Philadelphia native and Man Man drummer Chris Powell, both of whom are also members of Need New Body and who share an appreciation of the bizarre. Coming from bands with a healthy appreciation for layered instrumental melodies, offbeat rhythmic patterns and a healthy sense of humor (both musically and, in a more juvenile sense, lyrically), it’s little surprise that Tears of a Clone manages to amuse, annoy, thrill, engage and impress time and again over the course of its nearly forty-minute running time.
The album’s literal and artistic centerpiece comes with three songs in the middle that form a mini-suite of tunes built around clever keyboard and glockenspiel lines. “Bunny’s” begins with a speedy high-hat jazz beat underneath soft, exploratory horns and airy organ work, a compositional intro of deceptive harmonic complexity, bounding around the wavering horn and subtle guitar flourishes. “Misty curtain rise up,” Icy Demons beckon, peeking through the ether. The song disperses into a fog of dithering notes from the instruments and electronic scurries from elsewhere before peeling into the instrumental “Golden Coin,” which concisely summarizes just what Icy Demons is all about. Channeling Tortoise, Kraftwerk and Frank Zappa’s computerized synclavier, the serpentine keyboard lines track and dodge each other in a fugue-like pattern while Powell’s beats chase them back into line and spur them off in new directions. “Trial by Lasers” caps this stirring three-song swath, a perversely mellow samba groove that segues into a dramatic upright bass coda with more than a hint of menace.
As delightfully tumultuous as Tears of a Clone can be, there’s often something jarring and dim to snap the spell. “Vibes, Sweat, What’s That?” marries a boinging electronic loop with a faux-German-accented parody of a personal trainer (I’m guessing) repeatedly asking the titular question. Whether juvenile satire, space filler or inside joke, the album is poorer for it. Still, to create interesting music this divorced from easy labeling that remains compulsively listenable requires considerable dedication to eschewing outside expectations. The occasional misfire is a fair tradeoff for the stimulating whole.