“Have you ever seen or heard of cows/ Leaping and jumping and running as fast as they can?” This lyric, from “Cows,” a lead single on Silicone Prairie’s sophomore record, works as a sort of arcane thesis statement; the album is an irreverent, emphatic ode to joie de vivre.
The music is generally high energy, packed with multilayered instrumentation and vocal tracks. It sounds like Silicone Prairie sole proprietor Ian Teeple (you may know him from Warm Bodies or Snõõper), accompanied by friends from the Kansas City, Missouri punk/indie rock scene, is having a ton of fun playing these tunes. They’re less zany punk than on previous efforts and more expansive, with a wide-ranging experimental palette calling to mind free jazz-leaning Straw Man Army, the garage-prog-pop of Chronophage, and fellow Midwesterners The Drin.
Opener “Serpent in the Grass” makes good use of the band’s standard lo-fi production style, toggling between psychedelic glam and boisterous proto-punk. Noodly guitars and squiggly synths conjure visions of Looney Tunes antics. Teeple’s vocals at times resemble The Fall’s Mark E. Smith, at times Dead Kennedys’s Jello Biafra. But the band’s main point of reference seems to be swirling ’70s folk, from the hazy “Victorian Flame” to the guitar-forward “Painting Trains.” Tucked inside Vol. II are vignettes that feel almost out of place, or engineered to interrupt the flow. There’s “Willkommen,” an ambient interlude with AI-like German spoken word—that voice circles back to end the album as well. There’s 20 seconds of dissonant warbling at the end of “Cows.” There’s the wavy synth of “Freed’s Wet Tape.”
Or perhaps those juxtapositions of sound instead help establish the heterogeneity of the record—one where flute solos coexist with skronky kazoo sounds and lyrics about hating the U.S. (The smooth “Neon Moon” sounds like Elliott Smith singing a bizarro version of The Odd Couple theme song.) While this record fits well into the Feel It Records roster, it wouldn’t be out of place among the dreamy twee acts on Paisley Shirt Records or the broadly experimental DIY artists on Post Present Medium. Which brings us back to “Cows,” a folky song packed with a string of references to ranch life and existentialism. Life may be marching ever-forward, bringing us, as the song says, “closer to death,” but there you are, “lucky, wild, and free, dancing in the moonlight.” Even facing everyday struggles, Silicone Prairie suggests, there are moments primed for bliss.