Y’know what’s weird? A lot of really good independent, underground music is taking influence from pristine pop music, radio music, these days. And I’m not talking about the Beatles or the Beach Boys. I’m talking about *gasp* urban fare — R&B, quiet storm jazz, hip-hop, and conscious rap. The xx and its mash-up of the Cure and Aaliyah, These New Puritans taking on elements of dancehall and Timbaland, Toro y Moi adding a healthy dose of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall to their shoegazing storms. And now, and maybe most audaciously of all, Ryan Olson’s Gayngs. Relayted is skewed and outsider to be sure, but goddamn if, sonically, it’s not ready for the hit parade. Slick, shiny almost!
According to those in the know, Olson’s goal was to make an album entirely inspired in form and function by 10cc’s epochal, fucked-up smart-ass pop gambit, “I’m Not in Love.” Hahahaha! Genius. Last time I heard “I’m Not in Love,” it was a couple of wrist-slitting verses from a bootleg of a Rozz Williams solo show, so Olson’s already in good company. But Relayted goes far beyond those art-prank aims, the album sounds fucking gigantic. It’s this incredible mix of Massive Attack, Chris De Burgh/Simple Minds (“Lady in Red”), Bryan Ferry, Sade, ’90s radio R&B, and This Mortal Coil. Olson has drafted in the proverbial cast of thousands to flesh out his orchestra of the damned — members of Bon Iver, Solid Gold, Megafaun, Rosebuds, and Lookbook all throw their best lover man poses and diva shapes. No two songs sound alike; haunting ballads flow into codeined grooves, stitched together by tribal drum interludes and dark globe feedback. In that regard, Relayted reminds me most of This Mortal Coil’s Flligree and Shadow, where towering standards were undercut and interspersed with sound experiments and melancholy string pieces. And, yet, fuck me if Relayted wouldn’t be perfect music on an eternal loop at a fan-ceeeeeee restaurant. Funky, salacious, and yet completely self-possessed.