Pitchfork (Website) - "The album has a loose, playful energy, and always seems to be ready to pounce on you. Skittish guitar improvisations tangle with neo-soul percussion on 'Steve Polyester'..."
Audio Mixer: Dave Fridmann.
Recording information: Gravesend Recordings, The Silent Barn, Brooklyn, NY; The Gooden Family House, Benton, MS.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Felicia Douglass; Ethan Bassford; Julian Fader; Carlos Hernandez ; Rebecca Kauffman.
Brooklyn art funk ensemble Ava Luna were a messy, confusing beast in their earliest times. Following several self-released EPs, their 2012 album Ice Level reached a larger audience, presenting a set of convolutely composed and recorded songs that jumped jaggedly between modes of Dirty Projectors-like vocal harmonies and Timbaland-inspired R&B beats. Wild shifts in song structure and stylistic variations from track to track didn't make things any easier to digest. Released in 2014, Electric Balloon simplified things somewhat, stripping away some of the clutter and embracing the band's influences from downtown N.Y.C.'s art rock heyday with nods to the restless grooves of bands like Liquid Liquid, Talking Heads, and ESG. A year later, Infinite House moves toward even more accessible songwriting, though there's still plenty of weirdness keeping these hookier tunes afloat. The album begins with "Company," a tune that melds a simple but dirty bass groove with a nearly post-rock set of chord changes before erupting into an overblown chorus with a host of singers bellowing "Do you appreciate my company??!!" The juxtaposition of lazy, Sea & Cake-styled verses and abrupt near-metal choruses is strange, but somehow not as off-putting, as previous albums were in straighter moments. Tunes like "Billz" throw a little bit of this newly adopted high volume into their older R&B model, somewhere between Steely Dan in a more metal mood and '90s R&B radio production. The most interesting moments on Infinite House come when the band tries on approaches completely new to its catalog. Most notable in this way is "Steve Polyester," a playful jaunt that finds sung-spoken lyrics, compressed drums, and nerdy backing vocal harmonies culminating in an oddball song somewhere between Laurie Anderson quirkiness and kitschy throwback lounge music. "Tenderize" exemplifies how the band walks the line between happy pop and confrontational art rock, as Kate Bush-esque backing vocals battle with electronic sound effects and the occasional barely controlled outburst from lead vocalist Carlos Hernandez. With Infinite House, Ava Luna don't narrow their ambitious scope of sound, but manage to rein in the rapid-fire impulses that made earlier albums harder to swallow. The album trots by pleasantly, with all their increasingly signature moves of unexpected weirdness and ugliness tucked neatly into pockets of well-composed micro-symphonies of neurotic pop, arty dancefloor drama, and a breed of funk as strange as it is cool. ~ Fred Thomas