Acid and CGI for Breakfast: The Samps’ “Ancient Times” (POW Premiere)

Douglas Martin (without the assistance of drugs) explores the brand new video from the Los Angeles dance music polymaths.
By    December 2, 2018

Douglas Martin doesn’t normally eat breakfast, but when he does, he always washes it down with a good mimosa.

The Samps have a history of provoking sensory overload, using disparate sounds and approaches to fill their sometimes densely packed songs. On Breakfast, (finally) their debut full-length and the first music the trio has released since 2010’s self-titled EP, they are shapeshifters, gamesmen of many different styles. A handful of white label twelve-inches emulating 1997-era Warp Records, Ariel Pink locked inside of an Airliner.

Chasing wherever the song takes them leads to some very interesting results here: Smoldering distortion courses through the undercurrent of “World Keeps Burning,” almost keeping it from being the bouncy pop song it wants to be. Almost. “Head” and “Let Me Down” are the best chillwave songs in years, capturing that warped neon spirit without sounding like a Xeroxed copy of a copy of a copy of something Washed Out did great years ago. “Owe You” and “Backstabbers” are droned-out versions of the R&B blasting out of the boomboxes in the neighborhoods of my youth. The manic pace of “Mangler,” “Spice Ship,” and “Recovery” are all bolstered by their ability to cut-and-paste unexpected punctuation into their verses, feeling new and surprising most every time you listen to it. From funk to Aphex Twin to whatever French touch is supposed to be.

“Ancient Times” shows Cole M. G. N., J. Darrah, and Harland Burkhart showing off their superior drum programming skills, all polyrhythms and ambient textures, skittering and thudding and bouncing. Directed by the enigmatic Tammy, the video follows a variety of epilepsy-provoking landscapes; mountains, bowls, cups, jars, a vortex, overtreated portraits of the band members, and the most severely art-damaged homage to Mario Kart I’ve seen yet. These computer generated lands and spaces match the synthesized peaks of the song, the adventure of losing yourself in these deeply textured and pretty weird recordings. The Samps are as reliably unpredictable as ever here.

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