Album Review: Dumbo Gets Mad – Quantum Leap

[Bad Panda Records; 2013]

In a relatively brief time, Dumbo Gets Mad have managed to give a solid view of the psychedelics they’ve wanted to create, but there’s always been something just a little bit hidden and untamed about their sound. Much of their 2011 debut LP Elephants at the Door fixated upon so many sounds and production tricks to the point it would obscure the experience in its early listens. As it had time to sink in, however, it became clearer the album was more than just a mess of clips and songs underneath. Thanks to its textures and oozing personality, Elephants at the Door happened to be one of the most unique psych experiences of that year. On their newest release, Quantum Leap, it seems a certain effort was made to smoothen things out and expand on song structure while still maintaining the foundation of the duo’s original charm, and it pays off in ways that make Quantum Leap appear like an obvious progression.

Fans of their last record will notice a slight upgrade in equipment, or at the very least an improvement in production. It’s cleaner but not quite the big studio upgrade that makes the music sound super expensive; the equipment works for DGM and they know it. Perhaps more notable is their shift into a less-is-more philosophy, leaving the music in front but revealing the background’s subtleties as a worthy partner. Tracks like “Indian Food” and “The House of Love” have a straightforward nature that shows an increased confidence in their consistency throughout songs. In fact, the rest of the album survives on that idea.

“Future Sun” starts out as a hyper-efficient guitar banger accompanied with impressive bass flourishes, but the track’s sonic profile becomes fleshed out over time. Some tracks like “Cougar” leave the gate with everything showing, reminiscent of the experiences had on Elephants at the Door, but with more kick to the vocal tracking. It’s definitely a substantial improvement.

The inclusion of “Tahiti Hungry Jungle”, a re-interpretation of both “212” and “Licorice” by Azealia Banks, is rather strange, but if there is any band bold enough to tackle something like that, it’s probably Dumbo Gets Mad. The track is a more than valiant effort and structurally works well, but it’s difficult to hear Dumbo Gets Mad in a prime position performing even near-covers. The only other track that really underwhelms is “Before Kiddos Bath”, a slow, partially static intro track.

The record’s shining moment is “American Day”, which evolves and changes up its formula every chance it gets. It is an absurdly fun track, rejoicing bits and pieces of American city life but in the same eccentric fashion that reminds why Dumbo Gets Mad got on the radar in the first place. “American Day” is also a fantastic example of everything the band has learned coming together into one amalgamation from a production and musical standpoint, especially the way they integrate guitars and synths in a frequently seamless manner. The synths used across “American Day” and Quantum Leap as a whole are crass and unusual, but they work in favor of the band’s sonic presence. Everything is a little bit hokey between the lines, but the structure the group uses is powerful and abuses cheesiness, and their odd psychedelic tendencies take over the music all too well. If there is one thing that hasn’t changed for Dumbo Gets Mad, it’s their bravery, the root of their personality and boldness, which makes the music they put their minds and time into an absolute joy to listen to.