Dil Brito’s new album, Astro, seems to be an exercise in artistic anonymity. If it weren’t for a few vigilant blogs that picked up on its existence in early February, it would probably have disappeared into the ether like so many other one-time bandcamp releases. But now, with neither contact nor context we find ourselves with twelve short tracks of decidedly good noise folk.
Astro is difficult to define. It’s reminiscent of washed out effects music, except the ‘wash’ is somehow acoustic. You can imagine it as the result of a pop star like Jason Mraz falling down the stairs after a bad acid trip. In between the croony, sun-bleached vocals and flamenco-esque guitars, one gets the impression that ribs might be snapping as a singer songwriter misses a step and tumbles towards the basement. To clarify, this is a good thing.
Finding something to be critical of in this record is also confusing. To be sure, there are things to offend the ear. The sound quality smacks of built-in computer microphone and often it feels like someone tossed sounds at a computer hoping they’d meet up down the road. But the dichotomy is that any obvious ‘problems’ also seem meticulously placed. Guitars drift in and out and lazy vocals sink below suspended chords. It may be less that it’s a mess and more that it has the sort of intricacy requiring multiple very close listens. Even so, it would be interesting to hear these songs stripped to their core — within all the instrumentation is a distinct voice that could benefit from a sparser approach.
One of the most memorable songs on the record is “Down My Lane.” The lyrics match the instrumentals in that they are intense, crowded, and not overly concerned with causality. A male voice sings, “Keeping time by screaming wild songs at blank lines hoping I’ll survive by sleeping sound on high roads floating down my lane.” The beat poetry barrage is especially intriguing within such a gentle song. A reliable baseline and an eerie guitar counter melody feels like cage bars keeping the words in place.
Astro is a record that inhabits its own space. Like a cult movie, it is good precisely because it is indefinable. It is both too much and too little, and that is what makes it special. I eagerly await the future projects of Dil Brito, whatever shape they end up taking.