Sat, Sep 7
Lodge Room & Desert Daze Present

Dummy Free Energy Release Show

Time Wharp, Blimp, lockslip,

Dummy Free Energy Release Show
Time Wharp

Dummy is a rock band from Los Angeles comprised of Alex Ewell, Emma Maatman, Nathan O’Dell, and Joe Trainor. Their debut full-length Mandatory Enjoyment (Trouble in Mind) arrived in late 2021 and quickly became one of the year’s sleeper hits. Its bright and optimistic sound was a breath of fresh air from the underground in a gloomy musical climate slowly lurching back to life after the devastation of the pandemic. Pitchfork, Bandcamp Daily, Stereogum, Aquarium Drunkard, and other publications praised Dummy’s mix of ambient and twinkly guitar pop, their deep musical references, and the intentionality with which they patchworked it all together. Fans bought copies of Mandatory so quickly that Trouble in Mind couldn’t keep it in stock. Sub Pop Records was impressed enough to invite the band to contribute to their legendary Singles Club series. Bands loved Dummy, too, and the group were asked to open for a laundry list of buzzy indie names new and old: Horsegirl; Botch; Black Country, New Road; Luna; Spirit of the Beehive; Dehd; Snooper; Sweeping Promises; Snail Mail, etc. Heads everywhere knew that Dummy was the real deal: DIY lifers whose ascent was being fueled by a pure love of music and one genuinely terrific record. Dummy (Ewell: drums, synths, bass; Maatman: vocals, synths, organ; O’Dell: vocals, guitar, organ; Trainor: guitar, bass, synths) spent two years touring across the US and Europe in support of Mandatory Enjoyment, playing everywhere from warehouses, bars, boats, and houses, to real concert halls, theaters, and more than a few legendary rock venues. Along the way, they began to push themselves further, abstracting their songs in directions that felt dierent, “digging into a new feeling for us.” It’s this transformational experience that pulses through Free Energy, Dummy’s exhilarating follow-up to Mandatory Enjoyment, a record shaped by the immediacy and clarity of live performance. Where Mandatory was cerebral and lo-fi, the product of a lot of time inside, Free Energy is all movement, presence, and physicality. A creatively restless band, after returning from tour, Dummy felt like they had done the best version of motorik pop that they could do, and wanted to get harder, dancier, a little more psychedelic. This meant applying explorative potentials of electronic textures to the elemental qualities of rock i.e. more vocal loops, sampling, more crazy rhythms, and playful synths—but make those samples of Trainor’s guitar, let Maatman sing bolder, experiment with using cold mechanical elements in warm and sparkly ways, and lean harder into traditional-yet-still-awesome forms of rock guitar experimentation like feedback, which the band considers “a source of infinite possibilities, oering inherent randomness and a really expressive sound.” Trainor demoed out an entire album’s worth of ideas before trashing them all, which helped dispense with any lingering ideas from the previous record. Ewell and Trainor (who are married) began experimenting with home recording, using DAW as kind of an instrument for composition rather than simply a tool. O’Dell dug deeper into instrumental/sample composition, in addition to contributing more guitar leads. Maatman also steps into the spotlight in a big way, her vocals noticeably foregrounded and confident, adding to the live performance feel that forms the foundation of Free Energy. The result is a record that celebrates music’s ability to move the body, whether that be through a teeth-rattling wall of MBV-esque noise, a sticky pop chorus, or a joyous drum machine—or, if you’re Dummy, maybe all of them in the same song. Pop has always been a big part of Dummy’s sound, but it manifests dierently on Free Energy. Sometimes it’s quite literal (and funny), such as the bubbly synth sequence made with a Korg EM1 popping all over “Nullspace,” which features a melody written by O’Dell and is the song the band calls the record’s “sonic mission statement and really influenced by Mark Van Hoen, especially the cut-up dreamy dance-pop he was making on the Locust record Morning Light.” Other times it’s sonic, as when revved-up drone-pop inspired by second and third wave Dunedin Sound bands like Look Blue Go Purple and Dadamah makes an appearance on the cheekily named love song “Blue Dada”—albeit dredged in trance-y ambient a la UK electronic act Seefeel (with whom Van Hoen briefly played.) And although the band made a pact to leave behind the motorik beat that launched a 1000 Stereolab comparisons, it does make an appearance near the end of the record on “Nine Clean Nails,” perhaps the most confidently pop song Dummy has ever recorded and one that exemplifies Free Energy’s balancing of live performance intensity with electronic augmentations, the dancier rhythmic elements created out of a drum loop recorded by Ewell while the bridge recalls the Feelies with call-and-response guitars from O’Dell and expressive vocals from Maatman. Additionally, Free Energy features two guest appearances by friends Dummy has played with on tour, the first from Oakland-based saxophonist and electroacoustic artist Cole Pulice (Moon Glyph), who contributes a soaring sax solo to ambient improvisation “Opaline Bubbletear” and wind synths to “Sudden Flutes,” and Jen Powers of Powers / Rolin Duo (Astral Editions, Feeding Tube Records), whose dulcimer can be heard on final track “Godspin,” along with a series of field recordings the band made while on their various tours: the rushing of water, the rumbling of the van, indistinct voices, chirping birds; the sounds of mundanity rising to cacophony before petering out, treated no dierently than the ecstatic rhythms, explosive hooks, and blissful ambient stretches that came before. If there is any key to understanding what makes Dummy such a compelling band, perhaps it is this: it’s all music to them.