Presented without comment, three phrases from the press materials accompanying Oakland duo Casy & Brian's new EP: 1) "Neither of them could really play any instruments"; 2) "they ... found themselves making purposefully displeasing [music]"; and the kicker, 3) "The EP is a conceptual exercise in rock and roll."
And yet: Somehow, it works. Despite the pair's spotty musical background (they're both completely self-taught and have adopted and abandoned countless genres since they formed in 2004) and despite the potentially off-putting high-art concept (all the EP's lyrics were culled from nonfiction sources — technical manuals, documentaries, and the like), the five songs composing this release are remarkably well-crafted and weirdly catchy artifacts of grimy, synthy dance-punk, all walloping drums and strangled-in-a-good-way delivery and unchecked energy. Opener "Understanding Sound" starts with a lone, propulsive drumbeat before breaking into vivid, melodic guitars; a chorus of handclaps, cowbells, and other percussion; and feedback-saturated vocals. But even songs with less movement to them ("Sleng Teng," for example) manage to feel dense and hyponotic. And as for the apprehension-warranting lyrical concept, the duo appears to have used it less as a constraint and more as a tool for focusing itself. For a band that's so full of ideas that it doesn't entirely know what to do with them, that's a good thing. (self-released)