Robust Worlds: Emotional Planet Review
I am still bummed, after all the years, that Vampire Hands broke up. When I got back to the Twin Cities from college in 2008 they were one of the bands that really crystallized the “scene” for me and their split was a huge bummer. Luckily it wasn’t a “we’re having babies and giving up this music shit” split, so we have been able to hear the separate members of the group as they have continued exploring their sound on solo releases. Colin Johnson impressed with his excellent Capricorn Vertical Slum tape on Moon Glyph, while bassist Chris Beirden has been popping up everywhere (Polica, Heavy Deeds, Invisible Boy) but has yet to release a definitive solo record. Vampire Hands guitarist Chris Rose, who created those silky guitar lines that melded the kraut bass and the esoteric duel drummer machine in Vampire Hands, has also been busy. Like Beirden, he has been playing in Heavy Deeds, but he also has managed time to work under the solo moniker Robust Worlds, under which he is now releasing the album Emotional Planet on the local label De Stijl.
Vampire Hands always had a distinct avant garde take on pop music, but not matter how much they convoluted their arrangements, there was always a soul in the music. This feature comes across loud and clear on Emotional Planet, a record that is wrapped in waves of effects, but has a sensuality that is as genuine as is it powerful. The 10 songs are sparse without losing that creative edge that has always permeated the Vampire Hands crew. As with Beirden’s work with Invisible Boy, there are strands of more mainstream pop and folk music, but the songs on Emotional Planet are ornamented with Rose’s sumptuous use of studio effects. Rose’s guitar playing is fluid and lush, washing over the listener on a glistening wave of echo and reverb, never falling into a trap of sounding cheesy, but meshing superbly with the delicate vocals and sparse arrangements. Highlights are all over this record, from the previously released single “Best Wishes” to the haunted, soulful folk of “Jackie Diamonds” and back to the echo’d out pop bliss of “Outlaw.” In a time where bands with lavish sounds (think Grizzly Bear) are getting a lot of positive attention, Robust Worlds should make a dent as they throw their (distinctly hazy) hat into the ring.
While I still constantly circle back to the Vampire Hands LP’s Me and You Cherry Red, their Skull Judge split with Daughters of the Sun and their great sendoff LP Hannah and the Mansion, it has been almost three years since the band called it quits (with a short lived run as a three piece and a few reunion shows). With the band members branching out to new projects, it probably is time for me to move on as well. It will be much easier if all future projects from the group are as powerful, well crafted and commanding as Emotional Planet.
Robust Worlds are celebrating the release of Emotional Planet tonight at the Turf with Pony Trash, Dream Weapon and DJ Clint Simonson