Reptar’s “Oblangle Fizz, Y’all”

Grafton Tanner fills you in on one of Georgia’s most talked about underground acts for his first review with

Grafton Tanner

out of 10

Oblange Fizz, Y'all
April 29th, 2011
Quality Faucet Records

Legend holds they once broke the floor during a house show.  There was the time they literally blew the roof off the 40 Watt showcase at SXSW.  One time, Ben H. Allen III stumbled into the Drunken Unicorn in Atlanta and saw them for the first time.  Don’t recognize the name?  He is only one of the most talented and sought after producers in music today (I’m not sure if you’ve heard of Animal Collective before.  Or Gnarls Barkley.  Matt and Kim?).  He booked studio time with them shortly after their meeting.  They’re playing Lollapalooza.  They’re playing Austin City Limits.  Lightsabers have been brandished during shows, and I have witnessed the fan mania firsthand as I was bandied to and fro above a crowd of screaming Athenians during a live show freak out.

Reptar is a phenomenon.

They blew up in Athens faster than you can say “y’all” by combining insane live show theatrics with electro-dance music that is equal parts bump-and-grind and noisy Space Age conniption fit.  A year ago, Reptar released a 7” containing the Allen-produced synthpop epics “Houseboat Babies” and “Cannabis Canyon.”  However, Reptar’s true propensity for creating seismic synth-infused pop/rock shines on their debut EP entitled Oblangle Fizz Y’all.[1]

Y’all, though comprised of five tracks, covers a large amount of territory.  Opening track “Blastoff” propels the listener into the stratosphere.  Electronic blips and beeps give way to a vocal loop that becomes one of the catchiest riffs around right now.  Bassist Ryan Engelberger is featured here, and when his bass kicks in, the funk hits you like a right hook to the jaw.  Midway through, Reptar grooves in a spacey jam that eventually ends in the manner it begins.  “Rainbounce” makes use of this similar ABA structure, yet the mid-section here is terrifying and schizophrenic.  After a short romp featuring the thickest bass saw you’ve ever heard, “Rainbounce” bottoms out, and a haunting vocal loop begins.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating through space.  But when the drums pound out a four-on-the-floor, the distant, elephantine sounds of Africa are heard.  We are now partying with the spirits of the savanna.  Arguably the highlight of the EP is Graham Ulicny’s rap-scream spazz out that occurs in “Rainbounce.”  It is an honest eruption of everything within him as William Kennedy’s synths gurgle, spew, and burp.  Andrew McFarland blasts into breakneck double time before the noise dies slowly.  We are back at square one.  It is a chilling and wild moment.

Both “Blastoff” and “Rainbounce” are testaments to Reptar’s expert use of vocal samples.  They permeate Reptar’s music, and even Ulicny himself uses his own voice as more of an instrument on par with the synth than as a soaring melodic device separate from the rest of the instruments.  He doesn’t lead the songs vocally as much as he complements the layered beats and keystrokes around him.  His voice stutters, trembles, cracks, moans, and screams.  His singing is not confined to melody.  For Reptar, the voice is the primary tool by which emotion can be properly displayed, freed from the limitations of any man-made instrument.  (See them live, and you’ll know what I mean.  Overtaken with emotion, Ulicny’s singing deconstructs into a primal spit of consonants and glottal stops.  Incredible.)

Both “Stuck In My Id” and “Context Clues” highlight the maturity of Reptar.  The former is an Afropop song that could easily be the hit single of the EP.  The latter is a sprawling epic that boasts sampled bird calls, a Daft Punk inspired dance segment, and a grand horn section.  Here, Kennedy’s keyboards and synths take center stage.  Bass saw arpeggios, piano flourishes, synth-clav sixteenth note runs−they swirl and intertwine beneath Engelberger’s bass, McFarland’s steady groove, and Ulicny’s vocal melody.  It is the anchor of the EP.  “Stuck In My Id” is a funky piece ripe with toms and delayed electric piano.  It features one of the most impressive and polished choruses on the EP, and illustrates Reptar’s fascination with the intertwining of body and mind.  “Some kind of memory without you, love,” Ulicny declares, “She lays and swims inside my head…..I spent a long time with my body, girl.”  Whatever is raging in Reptar’s collective id manifests itself physically in the body.  It seeps into the listener’s body like a fine anesthetic.  It’s stuck in your head.  And you can’t stop dancing−the primary side effect of listening to Oblangle Fizz Y’all.

The EP closes with a rearranged live show favorite (“Phonetics”).  Instead of a synthrock jam, the version of “Phonetics” on Y’all places acoustic guitar, piano, and assorted percussion at the forefront.  It highlights the talents of the individual players yet seems slightly overdone and winded by the four minute mark.  The strength lies with the lyrics and the song’s instrumentation.  It swells, bends, stops, and explodes.  Space and silence is favored here, but brevity is not.  The other songs are balanced perfectly; they are as long as they need to be.  Yet “Phonetics” trundles along until it feels overwrought and even a bit hammy.  Though weaker than the other four tracks, “Phonetics” is a formidable closer to an EP rife with shocks and surprises.  It provides a shift in sound for Reptar, which is needed by the EP’s end, and ends in a dynamic fashion−a whisper.

Reptar sounds like a group teetering on the precipice, about to descend into a flight of freedom.  “I won’t call you if you don’t call me/ I’m feeling free,” Graham Ulicny sings on “Blastoff.”  The line becomes a chant, a call to break free from whatever has confined him before.  A similar line appears in “Rainbounce” (“My body’s naked and I am free”).  Let loose the shackles; the ties that bind are broken.  This idea of freedom charges the music with a sense of confidence and freshness−fresh with adult maturity and fancy free with childish wonder.  The combination of Reptar’s expert musicianship with Allen’s mastery of sound produces a force to be reckoned with.  Every other synthpop band immediately feels inferior after listening to Oblangle Fizz Y’all.  This is truly a band that rivals the indie buzz bands of 2011.  Mark my words.  Remember this: Reptar is going to be huge.


-Reviewed by Grafton Tanner

[1] Pronounced exactly as it looks, people.  The “oblangle” and the “fizz” probably stem from Reptar’s obsession with the power and behavior of the human voice and word association (disassociation?).  The “y’all”?  Welcome to the mind of Reptar, y’all.