Recording information: Echo & Highland Park, LA (2012-2015).
Since its debut in 2010, Tim Presley's eccentric psych-pop project White Fence has become increasingly tighter, more polished, and more cohesive, while maintaining its madcap charm. 2014's For the Recently Found Innocent was WF's clearest, catchiest album yet, bringing Presley ever closer to penning songs worthy of inclusion on future Nuggets-like compilations. On the self-titled debut by his side project W-X, Presley seems intent on throwing out the rule book and making the most outlandish music/noise he can put to tape. The rambling, messy 20-track album feels like a retreat back to the garage, smothered with tape hiss and free of the pressure to follow conventional song structure or make any kind of sense at all. Unlike Presley's typically guitar-centric bands, W-X plays around extensively with synths and drum machines, and at times his choppy beat constructions (especially "The Lurk") come close to sounding like something cooked up from Madlib's blunted bomb shelter. The sprawling, collage-like nature of the album is equally reminiscent of the unpredictable, schizophrenic mayhem of The Faust Tapes, with zany, whimsical experiments tumbling into more fully realized songs. When Presley sings, his faux British accent and disaffected demeanor bring to mind the Fall's Mark E. Smith or Television Personalities' Dan Treacy, and songs like "Moment" have a diary-like, day-in-the-life feel. Even at the album's catchiest, such as "Steer Clear," Presley can't help surrounding everything in multiple layers of fuzz and then dissolving into formless debris halfway through the track. The album's stand-out song, "Clean It Glen," places hypnotic vocals in a funhouse full of warped effects, constantly cutting into the track to add even more weirdness. There's no denying that W-X is anything but an indulgent, reckless mess, but its fearless sense of experimentation is never less than amusing. ~ Paul Simpson