Review: Richard Pizzaro – Actually Stupid (self-released, Jan 4)

I know I repeat this ad nauseam, but Bandcamp is a truly wondrous place. There are endless bewildering, obscure gems to be mined throughout the depths of the popular music hosting service, finding something like Actually Stupid is the equivalent of finding a mysterious old cassette at the very back of a rack or an unmarked CD amidst the stacks filled with bizarre sound. What makes this discovery even more valuable, however, is the fact that what is ostensibly New York based artist Richard Pizzaro’s first release is defiantly new and fresh, released on the fourth day of the new year and adorned with an artfully low-effort cover image made with Snapchat. Actually Stupid is also not a work that distances its aesthetic from the zeitgeist; featured on the cover is someone’s iTunes music library, “Aria” gets extensive mileage out of samples from Ariana Grande’s “God Is a Woman,” and everyone knows sex dolls are all the rage right now—but the music itself could hardly be any stranger. Opening track “Draining” evokes an arresting feeling of isolation, stripping fuzzy field recordings of a running tap and rushing air currents down into a single, spectral drone like the feeble sound of the arctic wind as you lie freezing to death in the snow. “Sex Doll I & II,” a continuous two-part piece that is itself part of a “Sex Doll” track trilogy, collapses into chaotic clusters of malfunctioning percussion patches and contorted electronic glitches; the soft synth washes of “Midwit” battle against jagged, unpredictable intrusions of silence and grating radio grabs until the whole track is commandeered and we’re left with an absurd yet strangely melancholy mass of monotone text-to-speech, a grandiose pop ballad, and what seem to be field recordings from either a cacophonous construction site or a violent firefight; and download-only bonus track “White Powder” concludes the proceedings with another delirious pop song dissection. Three cheers for democratic hosting platforms, hilarious album covers, and the people out there able and willing to make shit as weird and wonderful as this.

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