A fresh batch of craziness from the bizarro factory over at Ipecac Records, Gangpol & Mit’s frenetic debut is an overflowing collusion of inspiration and influence, creating a cartoon world that rings its warm sunniness with sinister edges. Part of a multimedia assault that includes absurdist animated videos and dabbles in a wide spectrum of electronic textures, The 1000 Softcore Tourist People Club is an enormously restless album, a quality that works both to its benefit and detriment.
Where a group like Gorillaz uses their cartoon identity as a safety blanket and an ongoing PR stunt, Gangpol & Mit is fully immersed in the strange reality it creates, down to the anonymity of its members, represented by the strange geometric characters of the album’s cover. It’s suggestive of the often purposely clunky weirdness inside, which merges Nintendo-era video game textures, Japanese vocal samples, and ambient palettes across a jerky collection of short tracks. The group’s videos cement their aesthetic, steeped in an old-fashioned lo-fi style developed with modern technology, landing somewhere between joyously and unsettlingly absurd.
All this shares a definite collection with the identity of the Ipecac stable: relentlessly creative, forcefully unusual, often self-reflexively odd. The group, however, doesn’t employ the same art-brut ironic outsider status that many of the label’s projects thrive off of, plying their eccentricity with a completely genuine sense of purpose. Tracks like “From Your House to the Universe” may aim to shock, making a jagged leap from pastoral MIDI tranquility to full-bore screaming insanity, but this is a rare moment of overt force. Mostly, the album is deceptively gentle, its ominous aspects represented through quick, subtle touches.
The group is also set apart by the real love they apply to the textural adaptation at play on songs like “The Softcore Tourist, Part 2,” which is insistently familiar despite original inflections. They avoid clear-cut tribute to the video games and cartoons of yore through the briefness of these reveries, phase-shifting from ambient daydreams to hardcore glitch techno to rumbling orchestral zeniths.
Yet befitting its multimedia approach, The 1000 Softcore Tourist People Club often sounds like the soundtrack to a video game we’re not allowed to play. Its twitchiness and the lack of a directly accompanying visual element prevent it from attaining a consistent flow. “The Burial” is manic and exciting, but cuts off after 30 seconds; it feels like the kind of triumphant cutscene that comes after defeating an end-of-level boss. Many of these songs are almost rudely short, which feels like a decisive inhabiting of snippet territory, but makes them hard to embrace. Still, despite this prickliness the group’s debut inhabits what feels like a fully realized creative universe, one that merges the present and the past, nostalgic remembrance and bold creativity, forming sound collages with a real sense of depth beneath them.