Chaos comes in spurts

The Mae Shi run the gamut from funky to freaky

Keri Carlson

On its last tour, the Mae Shi offered to trade a copy of its first EP for fan-made mix tapes. Mix tapes and/or mix CDs can be essential for a touring band enduring endless highway and crappy radio. Bands need to listen to something interesting on those long treks across barren Western states.

The Mae Shi has now moved up in the world (at least a little bit). The Kill Rock Stars subsidiary label 5RC released its latest album “Terrorbird” – which means more attention and a broader audience. But it also means that the band can no longer exchange their album for mix tapes.

But the four clever members of the Mae Shi found a new and perhaps even more intriguing exchange.

For your personal mix, the Mae Shi offers its own compilation of its favorite moments from all the mix tapes its received on the last tour. The key word here is “moments.” This compilation does not feature entire songs, only the band’s favorite snippets of songs. The result is over 1,200 song clips jammed onto a 70-minute disc. Each song only lasts for a couple of seconds.

The compilation is especially great because it resembles the band itself: Extremely ADHD.

Just like its mix, the Mae Shi has crammed “Terrorbird” full of songs. The album consists of 33 tracks in under 42 minutes. No song plays longer than a commercial jingle before jumping to the next track.

“Terrorbird’s” music sounds just as chaotic as the production process must have been. Tempos speed up and slow down like a New York cabbie – ranging from low hums to cluttered guitars and cacophonous shrieking. And throughout “Terrorbird,” random beeps and glitches glisten between rowdy post-punk dance grooves and static.

The Mae Shi skips happily across the line between experimental and annoying. Just when the shrill computer beeps feel as though they’re drilling into your brain, the band switches to giggly funk like the track “Takoma the Dolphin is AWOL.” The Mae Shi succeeds at convulsive bursts of goofiness – but a kind of goofy that’s closer to weird and crazy than stupid. The music has enough experimental-noise edge to it so the songs don’t languish in their novelty.

Though “Terrorbird” is an album parents would want to put on Ritalin, it is certainly not unfocused. When listening to the album without watching the tracks switch, it is hard to tell when they begin and end.

“Terrorbird” switches constantly between moods and styles but does so in a fluid way. Particularly on the last five tracks, all of which are essentially the same song. On “Repetition” the band chants “We learn by repetition.” But each “Repetition” track changes like a remix. The last of the series ends the album with a calm piano ballad that slowly deteriorates into clatter.

The Mae Shi might seem random but it’s nothing you can’t keep up with.