George Korein and the Spleen - Automating Season

10 songs
41:16 minutes
***** ***


Does anyone remember avant metal duo Infidel?/Castro! who released two truly strange experimental albums in the first half of the first decade of this new millennium? One half of the band, Colin Marston, went on to become a well known guitarist in a couple of rather well known progressive extreme metal bands like Behold... The Arctopus, Byla, Dysrhythmia, Gorguts, Krallice and many more I never even heard of. The other half of the duo, George Korein, inconspicuously continues as a more or less solo artist with his project George Korein and the Spleen, with whom he has released quite a few records since that time. Lately he has been very active, with one album coming out last year and two new albums released this year.

I went ahead and got his latest record Automating Season, and have to warn the metal audience out there: gone are the metal days. You could categorise his new music as new wave, or possibly even as some kind of no wave. The songs have mostly been created on the iPhone app Garageband, with the exception of one track that has been played on Nanoloop, an app that used to be available on old Gameboys.

This sounds very weird, on paper as for your ears, but that also doesnít necessarily mean that itís bad. And his song You Know Whatís Weird is exactly about the meaning of the word weird, which can mean bad or just different. In that song, he also mentions the Residents, an experimental band that has certainly left a trace with George Korein. These are generally regular songs, except performed by strange sounds, and Koreinís prominent and rather distinguished spoken word vocals not only give the music an incredible charm, but also make it possible to even follow the lyrics that often tell really smart stories. The opener and title track is about how everything in this world currently seems to be automated, taking choices away from people. A similar theme can be found on the acoustic guitar ballad Burden Of Pleasure which is about how life becomes possibly boring when everything is done for you by technology. This songís second half starts with bleeping synth noises before an out-of-this-world choir joins in to end the song in an amazingly moving way.

I could tell my impressions about every single song, but that would end in an overly long review. Therefore I jump ahead to the final three tracks. The seven-minute-long Unlock Achievement is the Nanoloop track that is Korein at his most experimental, but a delight for everyone who ever played around on a Gameboyís music apps. Do You Know They Weigh In San Jose is at five minutes also a longer and more adventurous song where the final part really adds some punch with deep bass chords that remind me of certain Korg instruments like the Kaoss Pad or the Kaossilator. The concluding Happily Addicted To Birds is actually a band song where Korein is joined by Thymme Jones (Cheer-Accident) on drums and trumpet, Jesse Krakow (Fast 'N' Bulbous, PAK, Time Of Orchids) on fretless bass and Kyle Press on clarinet and bird call. So despite currently residing in the deepest underground, George Korein still knows a lot of famous musicians who occasionally jump in to play music with him.

I was mostly reminded of the Residents, although Korein seems to have a more accessible touch, which might sound strange the first time you listen to his music. But spending more time with his wonderful sounds will reveal the gems hidden underneath all the experimentation. His vocals made me think of Judge Smith, founding member of British prog legends Van Der Graaf Generator who also pretty early in his career chose a career in obscurity. All of Koreinís albums can be downloaded for free on his Bandcamp page, but you really show leave him a little something for all the work he put into his exceptional music.

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