Unified Alarm System - This Is Only A Test

14 songs
73:57 minutes
***** **
Friendly Psychics


Up until now I expected from Friendly Psychics Music only high quality home recorded lo-fi indie pop, but the release of Unified Alarm System’s debut album This Is Only A Test taught me to sometimes expect the unexpected. Like most other bands from the label, this duo also consists of artists involved in other projects that we have come to know and like from this small yet fertile collective from Ohio and Colorado.

Unified Alarm System is Brainswarm’s Tim Donovan and label co-founder Chris Jones who, while not giving up their precious DIY ethics, switched their rock instruments for weird synthesizers, circuit-bent toys, theremins and ancient sounding beat machines that steer the fourteen songs on this very long CD as far from contemporary electronic music as you can possibly imagine. It’s obvious that the two musicians are strongly influenced by the pioneers of electronic experimentation of the Seventies. The uncompromising unconventional structures remind strongest of The Residents, and yet whenever they find a little room for melodies, the vocal lines are not too unlike David Bowie, Gary Numan or even Marc Almond.

Some bass lines or occasional catchy parts may let you expect something more accessible from time to time, but Unified Alarm System always get quickly back to their unfettered sounds and structures that make listening to This Is Only A Test a very demanding but fortunately also quite entertaining endeavour. The different songs are all quite different and adventurous, so that you won’t run into boring repetitiveness, but I believe that seventy-four minutes of this eeriness is maybe a little too much to be consumed in one sitting. Fans of bizarre and outlandish sound experimentation should still find a lot to admire on this album, especially since the always present if certainly not typical structures give it a framework making access not too hard.

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