Flashbulb Flashback: A Certain Risk // Blackstone Rangers // 10.11.2012

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[update: Rebranded Pale Dian, the band relocated. Read about it here http://www.dallasobserver.com/music/blackstone-rngrs-hit-reset-and-rediscover-themselves-as-pale-dian-7423406 , new music:  https://soundcloud.com/paledianmusic

On my way to meet with Blackstone Rangers, I was rear ended stopping at a yellow light. The driver said, “You’re car looks so fast, I was sure you would go.” Of her surprise, all I got was a good shaking. The tension of the seatbelt was just harsh enough for me to remember why I put it on in the first place. Beyond body damage, I was simply slowed down a bit while we sorted out the paperwork. The rest of the way to the Dallas’ Bishop Manor I thought about that deceptive urge for surprise I feel in my aesthetic pursuits. It can be concussive even inconvenient, but walking away from a fender bender presents an inimitable sense of survival that I would have otherwise not felt.

Sitting in their space, moments after meeting them, the surreal charm of the Rangers exposed itself and inflated the earlier surprise into something altogether mythical. Ruth Smith, the feminine side of the Rangers founding duo, turns in presentation mode, “This is my new lamp. I just love lamps.” The lamp was a model of a stoplight and I am still laughing about it the next day. A former DJ who grew “tired of playing other people’s songs,” her compositional abilities certainly benefited from all those spinning records.

Smith’s partner in the Blackstone arts is Derek Kutzer, each of them writing songs for the EP Into the Sea released earlier this year. Sitting behind a purple drum kit, Kutzer explains, “We’ve got a Lennon-McCartney approach to writing, she’s got her songs and I’ve got mine.” From there the band is modular, most often adding a drummer to punch up the well-arranged rhythms. The music stirs with a refreshing energy and tons of ear dope. Strands of a mechanized Morricone stream in against a caustic surf tone; like the resurfacing of old pop ghosts, Blackstone Rangers’ sound transports the listener to a strange landscape. As a Star Trek planet might show surreal arrangements of ordinary things – orange sky with green water –- this music courses with the same curious transformation. The surreality is intensified through a filter of glitchy by-products, held firm by a wandering pop essence.

Whether crawling along at a narcotic pace, or driving oscillating pulsations into the brain, the sounds froth at times with critters of electronic deviation. There are catchy pop mechanisms screamed against a field of new. Smith and Kutzer write their songs apart and bring them together to fill out the sonic landscape. Listening to the exuberant “Sheen Machine,” it is easy to hear the enjoyment the two have of effects and the transformation of sound. That transformation, either in the unexpected melodic presence or in the density and grandeur of the texture, allows Blackstone Rangers to draw listeners beyond themselves. This is more clearly started by Ruth Smith, “We just want to be loud and blow people away.”

You could call the Rangers’ “Noise Pop,” or as Audra Schroeder at The Observer describes them, “Distorto Pop,” but either way they will bear with them unexpected sonic energy.

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