In our interview with Sam Rosenberg and Thomas Baumann, who represent the two sides of the Mattress Financial/Fond Han split cassette Private Split, Baumann told us, “The writing process of ‘Carrier’ was similar to an insect’s last few days on a spider web, or a pile of diarrhea behind a half-vacant strip mall that remained overlooked until it had solidified into a dry, fibrous pie, which no one would be able to identify as diarrhea.” Although he was talking about that one song, the image of the sunbaked poop-pie is a fitting visualization of the entire split’s sound. That’s not to say the cassette sounds like shit (though the lo-fi nature of Fond Han’s side can sound poopy in the best way at times). Rather, both musicians take sounds and lyrical themes that would be unsettling in most other contexts and recontextualize them to create something else entirely.
The first song on Mattress Financial’s side, “40s” is an ode to all the different ways you can hide, drink, and share the beer of a certain size. It starts off completely acoustic, and begins to get truly weird when Rosenberg includes a flatted fifth interval in the song’s “chorus” part. “Chorus” gets put in quotation marks because Rosenberg displays an incredibly stream-of-consciousness songwriting style that deviates from the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure (much like Exploding In Sound labelmates Bad History Month). Unlike Rosenberg’s other band Two Inch Astronaut, Mattress Financial couples lo-fi drum and bass takes with predominately unprocessed acoustic guitar sounds, allowing Rosenberg’s voice to come to the forefront. His voice takes on an Elliott Smith-esque quality, especially in “On Your Lap.” The comparison only goes as far as Rosenberg’s voice, though; I doubt Smith would’ve ever sung about “Piss and pus and plaque.” Yet somehow, Rosenberg makes those lyrics sound beautiful.
Fond Han’s side does a very similar thing; beauty is found somewhere in the music’s lo-fi aesthetic. “Mad Mike” feels like a long lost basement demo of one of T. Bone Burnett’s weirder, darker tracks. The acoustic guitar is so overdriven that it sounds like it was plugged into a series of fuzz pedals before it reached the tape recorder. Despite this, the combination of Baumann’s fluid and grainy vocals and guitar gives the track a quasi-psychedelic feel, a sound that makes you want to zone out and stare out a window. Like Rosenberg with Mattress Financial, Baumann takes pleasure in confusing the notion of the pop song structure with Fond Han’s music. The skeleton of “Carrier” is a trebly, twangy guitar chord rather than a vocal hook. “Y”—which uses a digital metronome as its driving beat—descends from a facsimile of a ballad into tape-processed chaos. Endure through the noise, and you’ll get a strange little treat from Baumann at the very end.
Private Split will be released by the venerable Exploding in Sound Records on May 20. Stream the whole thing here, and look below for Mattress Financial tour dates.
Mattress Financial Tour:
04 New Brunswick at TBA w/ Fond Han
05 Schenectady, NY at Katie's House w/ No One and the Somebodies
06 Boston, MA at The Haus w/ Rick Maguire (Pile) and Carl Shane (Kal Marks)
07 New Paltz, NY at TBA
08 Montpelier, VT at Sovversiva Open Space w/ Dust From 1000 Yrs
09 Northampton, MA at TBA
10 Brooklyn, NY at Palisades 906
All dates with Laughing Fingers