One of the biggest rewards of having a large record collection in middle school was the ability to candidly witness the reactions of my friends when they were exposed to genres unknown. The first time I showed my Jonas Brothers-adoring peers psychedelic rock, indie pop, and experimental music, it was like feeding a toddler chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream for the first time. Their curiosities were set ablaze and nothing was the same anymore. The experience parallels the relationship between a record store employee and an inquisitive customer. A similar satisfaction is fulfilled, like John Cusack’s Rob Fleming guarantees to sell five copies of The Beta Band’s The Three EPs in High Fidelity.
I remind you of this curious phenomena because the Italian psych-pop duo Dumbo Gets Mad is that band. The band every Fleming-type will put on and sell a half dozen copies. Here is a record mobs of teenagers living online will use to impress their inferior peers who have a stunted taste in music. Shining through its obscurity, Quantum Leap is an instantaneously ear-catching, eccentric, and fantastical slice of deviance.
Upon initial exposure, Quantum Leap can be defined as a kooky tour guide to a distant galaxy where the ticket of admission is the consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms. One could fly past the wealth of sonic embellishments and nuances, yet still be swept away by Dumbo’s well-measured pop sensibilities, momentum and convivial spirits. In the first few moments in the record’s run-time, the multi-layered and groovy track “Indian Food” swings in with an impressive set of drum, keyboard and violin riffs, well-poised psychedelic vocals boasting charmingly wacky lyrics all mastered brilliantly by Kelly Hibbert, whose worked with the likes of Flying Lotus and J Dilla. With its inviting attitude and soft sonic features, the album begs for the summer to come sooner in a same way a chill-wave release would, but without ten kilos of reverb.
The lead single, “Bam Bam” shines a light on Dumbo’s quaint and skillful production style, which reaps major benefits from its attention-to-detail. The duo proves zany lyrics and knack for psychedelic jams aren’t crutches against writing something more subtle and low-key compared to the rest of Quantum Leap. “Cougar” features as my favorite funk entry from Dumbo, built from these nearly goofy bass solos and uber-dreamy choruses; one of plenty endearing nostalgia-rushes Quantum Leap has to offer. A particular stand-out moment comes in the form of an Azealia Banks homage with the song “Tahiti Hungry Jungle”, a surprisingly thrilling departure from Dumbo’s artistic spirit but equally in sync with Quantum Leap’s sprawling nature. In quoting and emulating Azealia songs “212” and “Licorice”, we can only wonder how much potential the duo is hiding.
It’s hard to deliver a follow-up record as screwy and satisfying as Dumbo’s debut, Elephants at the Door, which uses the same bag of tricks. Featuring heaps of production detail, vivacious sonic color, and slick pop songwriting ability, Dumbo Gets Mad actually plays to the title of the album; their artistic progress being a quantum leap. Sometime this year, I hope to walk in a record store soon to hear Quantum Leap thrown on the turntable with a snooty employee ready to impress, a half-smirk on both of our faces.