Tastes Like Armageddon

Kowtow Popof

Wampus Multimedia, 2012

http://www.wampus.com/artists/kowtow/index.html

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/08/2013

I hear a lot about dream pop these days—but what about dream rock?

Kowtow Popof’s songs—a swirling mix of electro-pop, roots-rock and magical thinking—are like impressionist daydreams, moments and feelings and images that provoke, set to an implacable groove. What makes Popof’s work stand out to me, though, is that at its core it seems to be all about vibe. It’s not “does B follow logically from A,” it’s “does XJ cubed sound kind of cool if you throw it into a song next to an orange elephant that speaks Ukrainian?”

Which might sound like an exaggeration by yours truly until you read the first song title on this album—“Ataraxis (I Brake For Squirrels)”—and come to understand that “I brake for squirrels” is in fact the song’s refrain and does in fact fit quite naturally into the song’s hallucinatory groove, which layers otherworldly synthesizer flourishes over rootsy chunka-chunka guitar, a steady, assertive rhythm section and Popof’s rather scruffy, urgent vocals.

Again and again, Popof uses atmospheric synth effects to create a sort of dreamy distance while keeping the guitars and drums and vocals rawer, melding electronic dreaminess with the immediacy and urgency of more naturalistic tones and instruments. This unusual combination of elements and a focus on creating strong, repeated rhythm patterns creates the sort of hypnotic effect heard clearly in the second half of “Uncanny Valley,” with its endlessly cycling electric piano and guitar figures over a canyon-deep groove, sort of a Tom Waits-backed-by-Kraftwerk fantasia. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

To the extent there’s a narrative thread running through Tastes Like Armageddon, it seems to be of the “soundtrack to the Mayan apocalypse” variety. At least that’s what I gleaned from the one-sheet and a few stray lines of “When You Reach Palodes,” whose vaguely ’80s synths paint an eerie, winding melody under and around Popof’s increasingly intense vocals, the nimble, agitated rhythm section and distorted guitars. 

“Alectryon At The Door” slows things down for a surrealistic ballad before leaping into the downright cheery sounds of “Time & Space,” a tune that combines a steady-on rock beat, acoustic piano, electronic string section, Popof’s most raw, upfront vocals yet, and yes, some wild little synth effects. There’s a crossover vibe happening here that defies description, like early Springsteen in a mind-meld with A Flock Of Seagulls. The overall effect, though? Cinematic, that’s the word.

Highlights the rest of the way would have to include the haunting little synth figure at the heart of “Beginning Of The End”; the playful dopiness and relentless beat of “Lookin’ 4 Rock”; and “Gadabout,” a collaboration with Waterslide/Arms of Kismet mastermind Mark Doyon that delivers a mix of Cars synth-rock and Van Morrison mysterious mysticism over yet another hypnotic groove. Closer “Tamp Down The Horizon” starts out like a Coldplay tune with big piano out front until the vocals come in, when things go a little off-kilter, as they always do in a KP song.

“Black Tourmaline” might sum things up best in the end, though: a steady soulful pulse from piano, bass and drums, with Popof’s bluesy guitar and vocals—a bit Claptonesque here and there—out front at first… and then the alien electronic sounds start to infiltrate, the rhythm section develops a strange hitch, and you’re left to wonder: just what the hell is a “tourmaline,” anyway? (I’ll save you the trip to Wikipedia: a semi-precious stone most commonly found in Sri Lanka.)

Tastes Like Armageddon is another entertaining effort from the vivid imagination of one of the more creative singer-songwriters out there (and I do mean out there). Dreamy to the point of bending reality, yet rocking in all the right places, this album is another head trip to the far side and back with the incomparable Kowtow Popof in the driver’s seat.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2013 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Wampus Multimedia, and is used for informational purposes only.