There's been a slight change to the City Center template since Saturday Looks Good to Me frontman Fred Thomas started releasing experimental 7-inch singles under this new moniker in January of '08, SLGTM drummer Ryan Howard has become a permanent member. Either because of Howard's influence or through a natural aesthetic refinement, this LP is somewhat less chaotic than the earlier material, but not in the sense that their delay-and-reverb dub love has been reined in; the textures they're working with have just become softer.
Although the duo draws from the darkly blissed-out sound of early '90s 4AD Records etherealists like Lush and Cocteau Twins, City Center's soundscapes are far more oceanic than celestial. After a decade spent re-creating lo-fi '60s garage band production values in SLGTM, this record has some of the most modern sound and recording techniques Thomas has ever worked with — it's based largely in samples and loops, but he and Howard still find the root of their material in the organic: playing a riff on a guitar, singing sustained notes, drumming a tribal beat which they then jam through so many processes and effects that it comes out three minutes later like the aural run-off from a My Bloody Valentine session.
City Center stands as a great document of the mutability of sound. But, even more than that, it's a statement on how the transcendent summer vibes of pop music are more indebted to music's mood rather than any codified verse-chorus structure. This, then, should be your 2009 night swimming soundtrack.
City Center plays Thursday, June 11, as part of the June's Children series at PJ's Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668. With Aran Ruth, Mary Alice's
Menagerie and Bedouins.
Aaron Shaul writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.