Over a 20+ year career, San Francisco’s Derek Gedalecia has released over 100 varied experimental forays into music, releasing eccentric entries on label catalogs such as NNA Tapes with 2007’s Unsounds and Domo Live (a self-split EP and live recording) and Hausu Mountain with 2016’s In Dual Mono (a cassette consisting of a single composition with the left and right audio channels split between the sides, requiring Zaireeka shenanigans to hear its stereo form). With Polyphonic Demo, Gedalecia has crafted what may be both his simplest and most varied work. While earlier this year we compared Period Bomb’s Lost and Found to the Residents’ Commercial Album, that comparison is even more apparent here, if less so in concept and more so in form. Whereas that album was a concept album about demos the way Commercial Album was about radio pop, Polyphonic Demo structurally nearly identical to the classic album, with both consisting of 40+ synth-led explorations, each lasting exactly a single minute. Beyond this similarity however, Polyphonic Demo is near the polar opposite of Commercial Album: the yin to its yang, so to speak. Where the goal of Commercial Album was to satirize and expose the inherent redundancies of pop music, using the time limitation as an added mocking restraint, Polyphonic Demo instead has its time rule as its only rule, using it not as a limitation, but rather a tool to facilitate a constant stream of ideas. The title Polyphonic Demo essentially boils down to “display of various sounds”. The title fits. It’s nearly impossible to write a review of the album that attempts to summarize an album with no summary to be formed. A full track-by-track is similarly daunting due to the sheer abundance of tracks. So how does one actually explain Polyphonic Demo?
Luckily, there are several (but not 44, at least yet) music videos we can use to get some small semblance of a grasp on the album. Derek and Ratskin Records have allowed us to premiere three new music videos for the tracks “Chill Out Room World”, “Gallop Sparkler”, and “Sales Theme”, and along with the album’s five other music videos to date, we’ll use these to look at a solid, but manageable fraction of Polyphonic Demo.
The first of our three premieres, the video for the album’s second track “Chill Out Room World” is directed by Fletcher Pratt and features bright, pink and green psychedelic imagery of aquatic life, largely focused on gently drifting seahorses. The track is calm and saturated, transporting the listener to a magical aquarium.
Directed by Ryan Kuehn, the video for track six “Ad Break” features a glitching screen of multi-colored rectangles akin to one you’d see late at night when certain channels go off the air, or during a production error. The song itself is also suitably glitchy to match.
The video for track seven “Marathon Man Dance” directed by David Russell Stempowski features two simultaneous pictures: a smaller one in the middle of the screen cycling through colored images of mutating psychedelia followed by the emergence of nature, while the larger one flips through black-and-white haziness. This does well to match the disorienting syncopation of the track.
Originally premiered via Houdini Mansions, the video for track eight “Blue Guitar” was directed by Gavin George. “Blue Guitar” is the only live recorded track on ‘Polyphonic Demo’ to receive a video so far and as such, the video is the only one to feature Gedalecia himself. The video starts with a clear shot of him playing on a rocky shore before the camera zooms out to a sky view and drifts along the cityscape, only to find him once again at the end, performing on the highway.
The second of our premieres, the video for track eleven “Gallop Sparkler” was directed by Spencer Hicks and features watercolor painting coated in a floaty, warbling fog to match the cloudy, inebriating effects of the ambient piece.
The video for track eighteen “Suspense Jag” was initially premiered via I Heart Noise and was directed by Ratskin Records owner Michael Daddona. The imagery on display here in combination the sci-fi tonal aesthetic of the song feels inspired by alien abduction, being exposed to over-stimulation in testing aboard a UFO.
Track 31 “Sad Theme on High”‘s video was premiered by Rood Woof and was directed by Frank Pollard. It features old black-and-white photos where one individual is invariably substituted by an ominous black silhouette before cycling to the next image, perhaps in reference to the dark underbelly of seemingly idyllic nostalgia.
Finally, our third premiere is for “Sales Theme”, the video for the forty-first track, directed by Alex Cruse. A steady and forward yet disorienting track, it’s accompanied by flashing black-and-white images, seemingly imbued with subliminal messaging in reference to the subliminal messages used in advertisement to sell things (hence “Sales Theme”).
All of these videos are simple yet deceptively complex, and while they still barely scratch the surface of what Polyphonic Demo has to offer, they are indicative of the album overall. This is an absurdly dense record, as well as an auditory Rorschach of sorts. What you gleam from this may be entirely different from what we do. It’s incredibly impressive for an artist to be releasing music this forward-thinking decades into a career. Headboggle is a wellspring of auditory ideas, and there’s no better time to take a drink than now.
Favorite tracks: Best experienced as a whole