Small Black Small Black [Jagjaguwar]
Originally self-released in the tail end of 2009 and now re-released by Jagjaguwar, the debut EP by Long Island’s Small Black (Ryan Heyner and Josh Kolenik) was concocted during a winter-long session that consisted of downing Crystal Light and watching Waterworld, of all films, in the attic of Kolenik’s uncle. This imagery of the recording process goes hand in hand with the sounds that trickle from this self-titled EP.
Having found their music to be lumped in with the much loved/hated chillwave, Small Black’s sunkissed melodies and blissed out, lo-fi production can rival the likes of scene poster boys like Washed Out and Toro Y Moi. But there’s something about Small Black that sets them apart.
The songs on this EP feel far less restricted and to an extent, quite fragmentary, like a demo, especially the half-formed, harmonica hallucination called “Baby Bird Pt. 2.” The much blogged about “Despicable Dogs,” with its scratchy textures, has industrial strength melodies in its affecting chorus and hook-filled, undulating synth lines. Were it ever polished to a blinding degree, it could easily be a leftfield breakthrough hit à la with MGMT’s “Kids.” Having added a full-time drummer to the line up, you have to wonder if the number of the rudimentary drum machine on “Bad Lover” is almost up; but it’s this bedroom style of intimacy that makes Small Black part of their community.
Remastered and enhanced with two bonus tracks, Small Black’s chilled sound doesn’t come with the baby-butt-smooth consistency of their peers. Sure it’s a minor characteristic to call their own, but it’s enough to let them have their own identity in a subgenre with a reputation for sameness.