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CD of the Month: Dummy - "Mandatory Enjoyment"


Much like cooking, music-making is all about ingredients. A little bit of this, a pinch of that, a splash of the other, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for something great. Especially in the highly-connected and information-rich world we’re living in now, where musical crate digging is done as easily with clicks as it is with fingertips, pulling little pieces of influences together into one cohesive whole has never had a wider pool to choose from. The Los Angeles band Dummy has proven themselves to be top chefs of this kind of flavor building with the release of their debut LP Mandatory Enjoyment, a confidently-made concoction of wide-reaching psychedelic and freak rock styles, all brought into one sparkling package.

A cursory listen to the album can bring out a handful of clear reference points, with early Stereolab being the most audible from the get-go as the vintage keyboard sounds and tight harmonies bring you gently in the band’s sound world. This intro track “Protostar” goes straight into the first full song on the album, “Fissured Ceramics,” immediately setting the pace for the drive that populates the record. That mood is crystallized on the following track “Final Weapon,” the krautrock-y motorik pulse of the drums building piece by piece and never letting up. The band brings shoegaze into the mix on “Punk Product #4”, the wailing guitars and dreamy synth patches bringing to mind 90s-era My Bloody Valentine. The psychedelic sunshine history of Los Angeles is certainly not absent here either, beaming into view with jangly guitar and tambourine shakes on tracks like “Cloud Pleaser.” Dummy’s seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the last 50 years of innovative guitar music is well-studied and deftly executed on this album, but don’t think this band is simply mirroring and regurgitating sounds gone by. Anyone can make a pastiche of another artist’s work, but where the real magic takes hold is when influences come together and deploy in just the right way to make a brand new whole, transforming its parts. And plus, this record is just plain fun.

I read commentary on this album referring to it as “record collection rock,” and while I believe it was used positively where it was mentioned, you could infer that to be a negative term possibly. I feel that this is a good thing, and a testament to the ground the band is covering in their music. If you listen to this, and find some sounds you like that you’ve never heard before, you’ve just opened the door to a whole world of music that’s right in front of you, waiting for you to tap in. For the music nerds such as myself, Dummy’s full-length debut scratches a lot of itches all at once, and delightfully so, and for the uninitiated, Mandatory Enjoyment can be the map key that starts a journey into years and years worth of brilliant music. Dummy is one the most exciting rock bands I’ve been exposed to in some time, and I’m fully strapped in to see what spaces and places they lead me to next.

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Evan Miller is a percussionist, lover of sound, and is probably buying too many cassette tapes online right now. Evan got his start in radio in 2012 at WWSU at Wright State University, where he was studying percussion performance. He followed through with both endeavors and eventually landed a lucrative dual career playing experimental music at home and abroad, and broadcasting those sounds to unsuspecting listeners Sunday nights on The Outside. Maintaining a connection to normal music, Evan also plays drums in bands, and hosts WYSO's weekday music show Excursions. When not doing something music-related, Evan is most likely listening to podcasts or watching food videos at home with his cat.