A weird EP full of music that tries hard to be electronica, Up to No Good blends assorted rock and country melodies, creating a kind of cool, kind of jarring pop that packs a lot into five songs. Birds and Batteries, then, are disquieting, a trait that makes them more compelling than they may seem on first listen.
Songwriter (though these songs, while tight and evocative, sound more constructed than arranged) Mike Sempert’s vocals are a foundation for each soundscape, his voice’s tone adding smoke to the colder arrangements and deepening the warmer ones. Adding slide guitars and strings helps make “The Villain” much more than a minimalistic exercise; abrasive loops turn the dance-friendly “Lightning” into a vehicle of subtle dread. The same is true with “Out in the Woods” or “Sneaky Times.” There are songs here that conjure up a funky, psych-doom vibe, even when trying to sound upbeat. Maybe this is what Frankie Goes to Hollywood or Ministry were trying to have us believe they sounded like.
Up to No Good is glorious and gloomy. Birds and Batteries push and crash, challenge and confirm, and make me want to harm to the dance floor.