Published on February 24th, 2011

Irwin Schmidt, keyboardist of supreme krautrock gods Can, once called his band a “mighty, pulsing organism.” To anyone familiar with CAN’s music, this kind of statement doesn’t come off as the arbitrary music journo description we’re used to seeing; it’s about as accurate as a three-word statement can get. One of that band’s biggest innovations was how their rhythms were machine-like, nearly infallible, but totally organic at the same time.

The same quote may just as well have been said of Philadelphia’s Grandchildren. Like Can, they’re full of amazing vigor, but also kind of detached in a way that’s hard to put your finger on. They don’t really seem to play their music as much as transmit it from some distant alien host, like a band possessed. The fundamental difference between the two is this: Can was a 70s krautrock band on the vanguard of a new, more cerebral kind of improvisational rock, crafting expansive 17-minute jams and sound collage freakouts. Grandchildren are trippy, for sure, and just as expansive, but expansive in miniature. They follow narrower paths that somehow contain almost as much in them. A kind of gargantuan pop music.

Grandchildren’s origins lie somewhere in the two years when they lived at West Philly’s Danger Danger Gallery (a venue that probably deserves a cut of Philly music mythology, if such a thing exists), where they were actually two bands that more or less morphed into one. Maybe this could account for the feeling they produce of having more ideas than they can handle. Like I said in my recent Philly playlist post, their style is a composite style, a “Frankstein’s-monster of seemingly disparate elements.”

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Those “disparate elements” aren’t disparate in the sense that they’re jarring, nor does it seem like the band is trying too hard. But they can be surprising. Like the way acoustic guitars are clipped and transmogrified into something electronic but still retain that homespun tonality. Or how those distant harmonies in “Heartbreaker” give way to quirky industrial polyrhythms, like something straight out of a Battles song.

But describing the feel of their debut LP Everlasting is only scraping the surface of all that Grandchildren can be. As enjoyable as the album is, it only dishes out about half of the energy and flat-out spectacle of their live performance. There are two octopus-armed percussionists at all times, whose bombastic maneuvers are just as powerful synchronized as when they diverge slightly. The experience is somehow both practiced and immediate, seamless and bat-shit crazy.

A “mighty, pulsing organism” if there ever was one.

Little Big Ones – Grandchildren

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