Gumshen is an electronic funk group out of Seattle who has just released their third full-length album, entitled Digibites. The band has been together since 2008 and also released five EPs before delving into longer releases. Gumshen have some lofty goals for themselves, as they claim their sound is similar to some of the best experimental electronic and indie acts of the past decade. While their sound is clean, interesting and well-produced, they have a long way to go before reaching the levels of recognition of such legendary electronic acts as LCD Soundsystem, Chromeo or Hot Chip.
Gumshen certainly have an interesting sound and style. Digibites is a high-energy album with lots of danceable, funk-infused electronic fun. There are definite elements which show influence from some of the band’s favorite legends of modern electronica. The opening track and lead single, A Scene Like That, has a healthy dose of funk a’la Chromeo in the bass track and some LCD Soundsystem-like bleeding synths and vocals. The very next track, Be Here Now has a very uplifting and apparently cerebral message in the lyrics which may remind some listeners of Hot Chip. More influence from Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem comes in the form of the album’s third song, Latency Head, which has an opening similar to one of Hot Chip’s signature synth riffs.
In some cases like Latency Head, it almost seems at though Gumshen is directly biting some of their favorites’ signature sounds. The difference comes, generally, in the arrangement and production of the tracks. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem is generally regarded as one of the great geniuses of experimental electronic music in the decade between 2000 and 2010. The great range of sounds and techniques he explored to create pieces the like of which had never been heard before in addition to Murphy’s charisma is what helped rocket LCD Soundsystem into the indie pop stratosphere despite how odd some of the music was. Similarly, Hot Chip created a unique sound which was at once loved by pop and indie audiences and hit both like a ton of bricks with their almost bubblegum pop sound and uplifting message. Their respective sounds are not easily replicated.
The rub with Gumshen is that they are a really good electronic funk band. Their sound is fun and slightly indie with a decent vocalist and a positive message. Their instrumental and production values are clean as well. The difference between them and bands like LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip and even Chromeo is in the technique and level of creativity. When listening to Digibites, one can easily hear the influence of these musical Einsteins, but there is always something a little off. When it comes to LCD Soundsystem, the original thought and use of a range of types of musical programming, analog equipment and old recording techniques is lacking. In the case of Hot Chip, it could be said that Gumshen are almost a mimicked version of this band in some places, but the parrot didn’t get any of the emotion or intelligence right because, after all, it is only a parrot.
The best track on Digibites is probably Latency Head. Its accompanying video is available on Youtube. It starts out biting Hot Chip a bit but then goes into some much more creative territory by way of a funky house beat, well-placed vocals sung in a round and some great organ work. This track is definitely worth the download, and the album as a whole is worth streaming on Gumshen’s Bandcamp page.
Gumshen’s Digibites shows that the band has potential, especially in songs like Latency Head where they really focus on creating their own sound. They are competent musicians who seem to have fun with their music and they are proficient in producing and arranging it. Reaching the levels of LCD Soundsystem or Hot Chip, however, requires less copying of these two greats and more developing of a unique, markedly high-quality sound. Gumshen’s Bandcamp and Youtube pages are referenced below in “Sources.”
Review by Layla Klamt
Youtube.com: Gumshen Channel
Bandcamp.com: Gumshen, “Digibytes”
Images courtesy of Gumshen press packet