Album Review

Brooklyn duo in sonic overdrive

May 31, 2010

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‘Treats,’’ the debut album by Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells, is preposterously easy to describe: It’s the sound of M.I.A. fronting the Ting Tings. The first noises on opener “Tell ’Em’’ are a rapidly repeating drum machine shudder and a double-shot of electronic decay, but what it really sounds like (even before the metal-anthem guitar voluntary and fingersnaps) is a machine-gun blast morphing into a laser battle.

That suits Alexis Krauss, who sings in a multilayered lead voice whose emotionless affect amplifies a subtle militance, while instrumentalist Derek E. Miller sets up a backdrop of pounding, asymmetric beats and caustic squeals. Many of the tracks are mixed so high that they seem to be doing palpable damage to the speakers, and every non-drum instrument in “A/B Machines’’ (the only lyric to which is a mantra of “Got my A machines on the table / Got my B machines in the drawer’’) resembles a siren that’s been heavily manipulated.

Sleigh Bells tends to emphasize sonic construction over the songs themselves, but it usually works. “Infinity Guitars’’ initially consists almost completely of drums and handclaps, with guitar dropped in only as punctuation, right up until the song suddenly makes good on its title and it’s like a hundred walls collapsing at once. “Treats’’ has the effect of sounding like the most exciting thing you’ve ever heard while it’s playing, even if you can’t figure out what you were listening to once it’s over. (Out tomorrow)


ESSENTIAL “Infinity Guitars’’