As 2018 draws to a close we have to accept that we’ve reached a fever pitch of absurdity present in all things day to day. We’re climbing this mountain of surrealist memes and real life super-villains, and with each step up this steep peak crumbles a little bit beneath our feet. Born out of this rubble, the band formally known as The Helicopter Scuba Divers emerges as GODCASTER, a band indebted to the surreal and psychedelic atmosphere that’s permeated through our daily lives. Their debut “Demo” release paints a picture of a band heavily inspired by the psych rock legends of yesteryear like Zappa and Beefheart, while maintaining an unmistakable modern energy and sensibility in their songwriting.
The instrumental opening track excellently titled *ahem* “DIRT BIKE BIKE VERSUS THE COPS (VACCINE GIRL)” gives away the bands M/O right off the bat, with music as idiosyncratic as its bizarre cover art. Math-y guitars and fast, pounding drums sound like they’re being played through an amp cabinet before the song translates itself into a sort of nightmare disco jam session. The track is traced by synth flourishes and a trailing flute sound, accentuating the song’s melodic tendencies. A short passage that could be mistaken as a bizarro world late-era Barry Manilow cut leads the track into its high stakes disco breakdown, a collision of sound and style which despite its cacophony sounds completely intentional.
That’s what makes just this short demo work so well: it knows exactly what it’s trying to be. The band is unapologetically wearing their influences on their sleeves and building something new and consistently interesting out of them. The hilarious and impactful “Sassy Stick Boy” opens with a flute melody dragged straight out of Zappa’s playbook, with Judson Kolk and Von Lee’s falsetto vocals soaring gleefully above the mix. The production on the track makes the vocals nearly impossible to understand, but that doesn’t really affect their noisy emotional impact as screams lead the flutes back into the mix. “Sassy Stick Boy” seems like the most accurate appraisal of the GODCASTER sound thus far, a brief track sounding like it’s being played by H.R. Pufnstuf’s legendary local heroes The Banana Splits, pictured below really DOING their thing.
With this release being a demo, it’s almost hard to imagine what a full length release might sound like. GODCASTER packs so much into each one of their songs despite how brief they are that a full length version of their act might become a little exhausting by the end. “Groove Station” plays around with a slightly longer format that serves as an impressive display of the band’s energy. The most outwardly funky of the bunch, “Groove Station (Rapture Blast Off)” is a high energy jam featuring some more legible vocals and sonic experimentation. Kolk and Lee keep the track centered, repeating the title amidst hectic guitar work and Sam Pickard’s impressive drumming. Kolk let’s his guitar rip while alternating between crooning over “celestial skies” and a wild, cackling falsetto. Keyboard work from David McFaul fills this track with ooky-spooky chords played next to the crashing drums and screeching guitars. This track captures this very specific kind of campy-scary combo, like the house band of a cheesy 80s halloween movie doing their best Captain Beefheart imitation – I say this completely with love.
For only one short demo, GODCASTER has done something unique and fantastic, truly embracing the surreal rather than musing about how it’s affecting us. There’s something so wholly unique about this band, like they’ve somehow found a way to blend the disparate styles of Philly DIY fashion and the grandiose costumed nature of 60s psychedelic. It’s not easy to revive an entire subsection of rock music so seamlessly for 3 excellent songs, but GODCASTER pulls it off with a crooked smile.
- Excellent, consistently interesting songwriting & instrumentation
- Wide sonic array being presented
- A band taking risks that are thoroughly paying off
- Amazing cover art
- Mix sometimes obscures certain sonic elements
- So many elements in one song can be a lot to digest