taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of the moment

Casual CuriousCasual Curious

The baby of T. Lee Gunselman, Casual Curious weathered numerous lineup changes before finally arriving with a self-titled debut album that can best be described as a close approximation of the most defining elements of Animal Collective, Jaga Jazzist and Prefuse 73. Heavy grooves drive the album’s nine tracks, mostly the product of Gunselman’s knob twisting and synth prodding, though the presence of former drummer James Crosson is unassailable. There’s little regard for empty space on the album, with Crosson’s style lending itself distinctly over to aggressive jazz-fusion, creating interesting contrast next to Gunselman’s glitchy, often cold programming. Vocally, Gunselman style is tethered tightly with that of AC circa-Merriweather Post Pavillion, with the vocals on “Garden” and “Duke Leto” in particular borrowing heavily from the reverbdrenched, casually repetitive “My Girls.” Some of the best moments on the album are where Casual Curious simply focuses on ambiance. “Body and Air” blends warm vocal samples with deep, hollowed-out bass and a hurricane of drum fills to create an excellent trip-hop vibe that transitions fluidly into “Get Lost,” a song that best strikes a balance between the album’s ethereal vocal and its moody sonic ambitions. Certain elements of the album may not curry favor with anti-AC reactionaries, primarily when it comes to Gunselman’s vocal style, but there’s a little bit of meat here for IDM and hip-hop beat-niks. Album-ender “She Song,” coincidentally, will certainly create conflict in the ears of some with the way it conjoins those two tropes. Where the album tends to stumble, however, is that it doesn’t do enough to separate itself from its influences. The first listen is exciting and stimulating, then you spend the next few trying to scratch an itch caused by the “where’ve I heard this before?” bug. Casual Curious hinges too heavily on the glitchy programming-jazz drumming dichotomy that began on albums like Jaga Jazzist’s A Livingroom Hush and became more prevalent years later without really exploring innovation. For a project that began simply as a way to engender a sense of community among like-minded musicians and make a few beats while it’s at it, Casual Curious succeeds wildly.


Casual Curious performs a free show at Studio B on Friday in support of Twin Shadow, presented by 90.9 WQFS FM.