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The Rise of Modern Simulation

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Nov
The Rise of Modern Simulation
Sounds like … genre-defying, electronica-meets-rock-meets-rap-meets-jazz-meets-everything else mix from their sole major release, Kaleidoscope SuperiorAt a glance … done the way farewell albums should be done, this is a fitting final chapter to Earthsuit's short-lived, yet much lauded, existenceTrack Listing1-2-3Bloodshot FanaticalForeignNightfallNoise For Your EyesThe Hard DriveAgainst the Grain (remix live)Hutch Buggin 1ManMachine/Said the SunMilleniumThis & That (live feat. Playdough)Hutch Buggin 2Once in a LifetimeGummy BuffalosHutch Buggin 3Outro Medley

The year 2000 was a great year for new artists in Christian music, especially in alternative rock. Sparrow single-handedly broke impressive new artists like Luna Halo, The Elms, and Earthsuit. They all garnered positive, glowing reviews for their debuts. But it wasn't too long before creative differences and marketing conundrums arose, and two of the bands—Luna Halo and Earthsuit, particularly—left Sparrow and went the indie route. Too bad for the bands, especially Earthsuit, whose fans longed for the follow-up to that otherworldly, once-in-a-lifetime debut, Kaleidoscope Superior, the type of album that not even critics—Christian or mainstream—were ready for. [As for Luna Halo, they've reportedly signed a developmental deal with DreamWorks Records.]

Recording sporadically since, playing occasional spot dates, and enduring a lineup change or two, Earthsuit finally called it quits in 2003, giving birth to The Rise of Modern Simulation in the process. It's an album they tailor-made to reward fans for their devotion and patience, and to give the rest of the world an extra peek at the wild things the group is capable of—even without a recording budget. Starting with "1-2-3," Earthsuit sets the tone for the album very much like "One Time" did for their debut. When Adam LaClave sings, "It's been a long time coming/Now we're here," it even feels both nostalgic and posthumous at the same time.

The largely electronic "Foreign" is an entrancing, pounding track that could easily be interpreted as an allegory about the band's departure from Sparrow: "There's no place in your world for me/I've been from sea to shining sea/And I can't retain your policies, excuse me/If I'm just hanging around, I'm foreign." Words can't describe the brilliant "Noise For Your Eyes," a song whose myriad blips, bleeps, and ambient noises ornament the double-timed, stop/start drum patterns, only to break into a garagey, cacophonous mess towards the end. Equally melodic and ethereal is the anthemic "Nightfall," which uses keyboard strings and Dave Rumsey's deceptively simple minor-chord noodling for added effect.

There are other gems. The short-but-sweet "Hutch Buggin" tracks scattered throughout the album are impromptu, live-to-tape recording sessions where drummer David Hutchinson shows his syncopated percussive prowess. If the bassline in "This and That" (a live track featuring Playdough) sounds vaguely familiar, it's because Earthsuit samples it masterfully from the classic hip-hop cut "The Choice is Yours," by Black Sheep. Samples also abound in the instrumental "Outro Medley," a crazy jam track with where Hutch bugs some more, guitarist Rumsey waxes spatial, and Paul Meany works the keys and the samples, using a chill synth portion from DJ Shadow's "Changeling" and the operatic strings from The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony."

As an added bonus, the CD is enhanced with extensive live video from Holland's Flevo 2001, a Christian music festival. Here, you'll find the ensemble doing lively and wildly experimental—if not a bit spotty and poorly mixed-renditions of their songs, including the grand "Against the Grain." Also included is a cover of the Cranberries' "Salvation," two montages of the band on and off the stage during their Europe visit, and a hilarious track called "Emotionalizing," where Adam LaClave grabs a guitar and starts to "emotionalize it" while feeding off the audience's energy. (OK, you have to see it to understand it.)

Although Earthsuit no longer exists, fear not. Both LaClave and Meany are now frontmen of their own bands, Macrosick and Math, respectively. But The Rise of Modern Simulation serves as an adequate and respectful nod to Earthsuit's past. It's certainly not perfect, as its indie origins clearly show in the simple packaging, the at-times unpolished sound, and the rough-around-the-edges video footage. But it's still impressive considering it was probably put together on a shoestring budget—and highly recommended whether you fancy yourself a "suitcase" or not. The band may be done, but the specter of Earthsuit will live on elsewhere. You just watch.

The Rise of Modern Simulation is currently available only at Math's web site, www.mathmusic.com.