The Beast

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Following his adventurous excursions into Zappa territory with Dear Bicycle, Nathan Michel takes a 90-degree turn with his laptop and his instruments and his bleeps on The Beast. Right away, the guitar-fuelled “Dust” lets everyone know that this won’t be a rehash of the bloop’n’bleep-happy Tigerbeat6 campaign, but rather the bastard stepchild of Pet Sounds and Something/Anything? all rolled into a 42-minute song cycle. And while comparing The Beast to two of pop music’s most holy of documents may seem sacrilegious to some, it’s a fully warranted comparison. Layer upon layer of digital and acoustic percussion run amuck around quirky but melodic chord charts, heavily inspired by the aforementioned releases but not relying solely on imitation to get the point across. Michel’s vocals at times sound like Air Supply’s Graham Russell, but this is a good thing in a sea of IDM artists who insist on singing, with the result often being a horrible layer of sound on top of otherwise good music. And the influence of Zappa hasn’t entirely gone away, as revealed by the melodies on “Status Dive,” with their choppy singsong delivery up and down a scale that wouldn’t be out of place on We’re Only in It for the Money. But for all its quirks and idiosyncrasies, Michel has crafted a record that would find equal shelf space in the collections of the staunchest of laptop elitists, fans of Stereolab, and anyone who simply like adventurous, fresh new music that’s as challenging as it is entertaining.