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  • Jonathan Widran

PROTOVULCAN, Life is Twigs/Psychic Pinball

If there is a blissful universe where cacophonous, Vocoder and fuzz guitar garage rock fuses effortlessly with otherworldly, high tech sci fi prog-rock, the Chicago trio Protovulcan are rulers of it for eternity.

The whimsical off the cuff title of the 6 track plus two remix project – which sums up its crazy, crafty, freewheeling, exploding kitchen sink aesthetic- came from its gumption to approach legendary producer Steve Albini to produce. Albini is a noise rocker with Shellac who has engineered for hundreds of nobodies as well as Nirvana, The Jesus Lizard, Bush and Cheap Trick.

Vocalist/keyboardist Will MacLean and drummer Deric Cross “had a number of life things happen,” and threw out the idea of recording with Albini for fun. Criss was afraid it might cost too much, then one day texted his band mate: “F*ck. Let’s do it! Life is Twigs.” Which to MacLean, sounded about right.

For newcomers to the wonderful brooding, way out filtered vocal (MacLean meets the Korg Vocoder), crunchy guitar (via Nick Ammerman’s 60’s Galanti Grand Prix electric guitar) driven mystery who have a hard time getting into hypnotic, blast then brood, tripadelic journeys like “Waking Up Dinosaurs” and “Snake Legend,” Criss has a quote for you. “Protovulcan songs come out of jamming until we have parts we’re all happy with, and while some of them snap together pretty quickly, others take a while to emerge from the murk and take form. . .I’ve had to figure out how to trust that we’ll eventually get to a place where it feels like the jams have become actual songs.”

OK, so if the crunch and squeeze spacey energy of “Pine for You” takes a little time to process as a three minute song, it’s just possible Criss took a while too. And if the moody, mostly free-flowing “Celestial Slingshot” has too much ambient fuzz and metal scratching for your tastes, maybe the band had its doubts along the blistering path, too. This is music from an alternate universe, after all, so you’re either on board or you’re not. The key to cracking the code: keep chanting “life is twigs” and it should start to make more sense.

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