Published Oct 28, 2016In 2014, Chilly Gonzales, Esthero and Owen Pallett helped Alan Deil (a.k.a. Spookey Ruben) launch a successful Indiegogo campaign to release a deluxe reissue of his 1996 debut, Modes of Transportation Vol. 1. The renewed attention helped spark a mini-renaissance for Spookey's ground-breaking but largely forgotten blend of mid-'90s sounds that helped him come off as Beck's Pet Sounds-loving contemporary.
Twenty-one years and seven albums since that release, the Toronto-via-Ottawa musician has grown significantly as an arranger and noisemaker — and yet, his adventurous new LP Modes III unfortunately contains some of his most frustrating material to date.
Released four years after his last LP, Welsh Rarebits, the 13-track album feels simultaneously more linear and more unfocused than anything he's released throughout his career. For every pop-perfect weird-out/workout, like the sleek electro "Mr. Everywhere," the dizzyingly melodic slow jam "Midsummer Dropout" and the ambitious "Children of the Rich and Famous" (featuring Choir! Choir! Choir!), there's the snotty Telus commercial sound-alike "When Your Heart Says Yes" (featuring Geneva Jacuzzi), the hastily-written acoustic jam "Gunnar" and the forced Auto Tune-drenched nadir "Granma Faye."
Modes III is an uneven record at best, but it's the kind of uneven record only Spookey Ruben can make, as he shoots for the moon at every moment — even when his material feels too structurally unsound to even leave this stratosphere. (Hi-Hat)