Now that Ariel Pink’s aesthetic is practically a foregone conclusion in indie music, it may take some listening through the haze to realize the insane brilliance of Gary War, sort of a Sun Ra or Captain Beefheart of chill wave. (Are we still calling it that? Really?)
On Police Water more so than on previous releases, War straddles a line between the aforementioned waves and minimal synth, only what he’s doing isn’t chill or minimal at all. It might better be described as gonzo-wave, and for the entirety of Police Water, you’re pretty sure more than just your ears are being violated.
Three or four keyboard arpeggios, each more frantic and higher pitched than the next, fight for dominance in the mix, not just with each other, but with an endless barrage of synth wooshes and the hardest beats of his career, while the vocals are barely audible but unmistakably sinister. The resulting cosmic soup is like a deceptively sweet and gauzy yet somehow more unhinged version of Sebastien Tellier’s “Zombi,” with hints of L.A. aerobic-electro goofballs Totally Radd!!, and yet, not a bad thing.
Even when “Reality Protest” and “Hollow Futures,” bonus tracks from a 7”, move the aesthetic slightly toward the organic, the disorienting quality prevails, and this is the rare release that benefits from sameness. Like many production technique-centric acts, when Gary War figures out how to pull this off live, he’ll be poised to take over the world of tomorrow, today.