Studded Left. Photo: Gross Gerald
In the ether of the music industry, those who reinvent themselves regularly have been and will always be the most interesting. True artistry is growing harder and harder to come by nowadays, though it shouldn’t shock you that Houston’s Studded Left embody the definition of artists. Leaving behind the name of Indian Jewelry to take on a new form and a new sound would seem out of the ordinary for most acts, but it feels like something any ardent fan these guys would expect. On their new micro-album Western Groove, found exclusively here ahead of its release tomorrow, they expand their sound and reinvent themselves better than anyone else. Full of danceable synths and ghostly vocals, it feels like there’s a world of expressionism that Studded Left will locate and conquer.
With the release primarily produced by the band, the opening track “Western Groove” sounds a little like an expanded idea of what Indian Jewelry had started to dabble in on their last release. However, what takes the listener further down the rabbit hole here is a more groove-heavy sound. Complete with a mix of Erica’s vocals driving atop the song, the dark and dissonant vocals come in and out of the track through its entirety like the breath of an unknown lover. It’s definitely something new from a group that’s great at breaking new ground. This is followed by the fused synth sound of “Your Marble Mind.” At moments, Tex’s vocals remind you of a darker version of Transformer–era Lou Reed without sounding like a copy, as the vocals here have more of distant sound. The beat alone on this track would be enough, though varying synths glide around the song like apparitions floating in the space in which the band performs.
The band takes things further into the darkness on “Parts of You.” Like a haunting memory, there are so many things happening here that it’s hard to focus on just one. There’s a distance on the track where the beat and guitar create a world where only the two vocal tracks could exist. This is a darkness that Studded Left operate like a universe that they can only create, offering up an intriguing take on their avant garde-based electronica. This gets followed up by the catchy sounds of “Taupe And Teal.” While the song contains multiple hooks including the pace that strides along with an enticing speed, you can’t help but get butterflies from it. The mix of various synth clusters and the beat just push Tex’s vocals in your ears with an ease that keep them there like a convincing sales pitch. This is followed by two remixes, the first being “Your Marble Mind (Message To Pretty Mix)” and “Western Groove (Vega Mix).” The different takes on both tracks showcase how strong Studded Left is as artists, and what can happen when musicians forge their own path without industry types attempting to steer them. Almost completely new songs, both mixes are the type you hope for, in that they almost entirely recraft the songs rather than offer up subtle nuances.
This is definitely the perfect debut from a rebranded and reimagined group. By reinventing their sound, Studded Left continue to prove that they’re light years ahead of most bands in their genre, and decades ahead of so many bands in town who feel like they should always play it safe. Western Groove is available tomorrow through the group’s Bandcamp, and you can catch Studded Left at Walter’s on July 14. The all ages show will also feature sets from Elysia Crampton, Rabit X House Of Kenzo, Total Abuse, and B L A C K I E, with an opening DJ set from Disaro.