EP Review: Guerilla Toss – Gay Disco

London – Down in the depths of Boston’s independent music scene, Guerilla Toss have been causing a bit of a stir.  As well as earning a reputation for some more than left-field live performances (including frequent full-nudity), the band have been putting out music on East Coast labels Feeding Tube Records and John Zorn’s Tzadik amongst others over the past couple of years.  December 10 sees new LP Gay Disco unleashed upon an unsuspecting American audience. For those looking for that something special to wind down with on a cold Winter night, this isn’t it …

As the first line to album opener “Trash Bed” is howled out, you’re given the impression that this ain’t gonna be your run of the mill experimental indie nonsense.  Indeed, one fan commented on the SoundCloud stream “I seriously have no idea how to deal with this”, I’m right there with you brotha.  It’s so off-piste that it’s hard to not sit up and pay attention and with so much happening, it’s easy to find yourself following along with one part of the track intently, only to get distracted by something shiny somewhere else in the mix.

“Pink Elephant” and “Operate” continue in a similar vein with Kassie Carlson’s vocals cutting through the track intermittently, and at times there seems almost to be the resemblance of structure as she shrieks “Operate, plug it in and turn it off” in what could certainly pass for a chorus.  As the album is being released primarily as a vinyl release (as well as digitally), “Operate” brings side one to a close in tempestuous fashion before the sinister “Sugar Better” kicks off the second half in a state of near-normality.  If you were to play one track to a ‘Gtoss’ newcomer this would arguably be it, as it’s tangents only stray from musical convention by a few hundred yards or so, compared with the visits to beyond the deepest realms of obscurity elsewhere on Gay Disco.

By the time the LP’s closing two songs “Club Kids” and title track “Gay Disco” rock around twenty minutes in, the weirdness has become increasingly intriguing and the record’s limited length allows the opportunity to revisit the tracks several times to try and wrap your head around what exactly is going on.  There’s some pretty funky moment during “Club Kids’ which reiterate the band’s genuine musicianship.  Don’t be fooled, through the noise and the layers lies a five-piece who know exactly what they’re doing.  The band’s own PR cite comparisons to avant-garde legends such as Albert Ayler and Bill Laswell which in truth are more than credible claims.  Their material is unusual, but undeniably captivating and wouldn’t work if the band were lesser musicians.

Guerilla Toss themselves have referred to their music as ‘blah wave’, although in truth even a description that vague is far too restrictive for the material that they produce. It’s almost impossible to categorise their latest LP, and writing in the middle of the day with a cup of tea, I can’t help feeling that I’m not the intended audience.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of eccentricity in my music – some of my favourite albums include Be Your Own Pet, Test Icicles and Forward Russia’s debut releases – however, Gay Disco is a bit like all of the tracks on those three records being played at the same time.  Give it a listen yourself, or better still, try and get down to a show. Be warned though, based on past performances, one would imagine that viewer discretion as almost certainly advised.

Photo By Ethan M. Long