Or Best Offer - Center cassette
“I found this on the ground / and I thought of you,” hums Grace Schmidhauser as the first track unfurls on Or Best Offer’s debut album. It’s a deceptively sophisticated mission statement and a perfect introduction to the band’s universe, one where the mundane suggests the holy, where moments of intimacy become tokens of the cosmic. The experimental rock duo made up of primary songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Schmidhauser, and drummer and synthesist Brian Culligan, work with a sense of ceaseless wonder and invention, moving between instruments and technique with fluidity and intuition. But the humble consolation suggested by the band’s name belies what is actually a remarkably uncompromising sound, one given to sudden bursts of raw electric energy and total abstraction. Based, intermittently, between Brooklyn, Providence, and Chicago, the duo has found increasing notoriety for their arresting live performances, which project immersive electronics against muscular, cathartic performance. After years of collaboration in various forms since their initial meeting in 2018, Or Best Offer’s debut album Center arrives as both a document of and extrapolation on their live sound. The album was created and mixed during a period of geographical transition for Schmidhauser, and fittingly, the world of Center has a unique physics and an unstable gravity, as prone to sudden weightlessness as it is brute force. Recorded and produced by the two entirely in Culligan’s Ridgewood bedroom, Center takes a sensitive, loving approach to its materials with both molecular precision and widescreen grandeur. Distorted ribbons of Wurlitzer twirl against clattering cymbals; signals cut in and out like farewell transmissions.
There are a few aesthetic reference points for Center: the textural complexity of drone artists like Tim Hecker or Fennesz; the threadbare vulnerability of Cat Power; the gnarled post-rock of early Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Gastr Del Sol. But the throbbing core of Center is utterly unique, distinguished by Schmidhauser’s vaporous guitar work and profoundly spiritual lens. Center sounds like an unlikely miracle: songs swirl into existence from spinning shards of sound, words slowly gather into melodies, guitar lines dissolve and reform. The alchemical shifts between form, intensity, and scale are summarized evocatively in the title track’s closing lines: “sweet dear tornado / falls down on his knees / i’m sorry for making a mess / i’m just air you can breathe.” The dust settles. There is peace.