Grex is the Oakland-based duo of Rei Scampavia on synths/vocals and guitarist Karl Evangelista also vocals. “Everything You Said Was Wrong” is the latest of five proper albums which span over a decade and probably the last if we accept the hints in the sleeve notes. Their stripped-down, sparse, musical style could be defined as art-rock with No Wave attitude but also contains experimental and free jazz elements which may tantalise a UKVibe reader’s more left-field taste buds!
The album kicks off with a claustrophobically constraining 4 note double bass loop on “KD (Kevin Durant)” propelling Evangelista’s venomous vocals and weaving gnarly lead guitar lines. Guitar power chords crash over the rat-a-tat drum machine with Scampavia’s mellower melodic voice on “The Other Mouses”, more guitar heroics follow from deranged rifferama to kaleidoscopic pyrotechnics. “Beepocalypse” turns the heat down a little before the stripped-down drum loops and humming electronic bass of “Blood”. This is reminiscent of Suicide (another duo) but also informed by hip hop. By comparison, “Margot Tenenbaum” is a conventional mid-paced rock/hip hop crossover with rapping verses and singing choruses. The first side closes with the melancholic jazz guitar balladry of “Walking Ayler in Tarzana”.
Side 2 and “Criminal” is angry and noisy. Post-rock and hip hop strands bristle with rage. The atonal distortion hints at industrial metal particularly in the guitar solo squalls, screaming guitar and feedback. “Moon Baby” is slow-paced electronic pop with a melodic voice. Disjointed guitar/synth duet introduces “Jin’s Run”, an abstract soundscape of tones and noises which builds into crashing percussion, sustained guitar lead lines and fairground-ride synths. “Feather Chaser” is brief but sorrowful electronic pop balladry with early 80s pop leanings. “Ikki”, the simple melody line, becomes beautiful sprightly clean soloing over free form percussion.
“Criminal” contains the line “I do what the fuck I want” and although taken out of context of the track, this, for me, encapsulates the Grex’s attitude on this record. Sometimes exciting and sometimes frustrating but nearly always engaging, the differing styles and moods juxtapose and occasionally clash, even on the same track! The result is the album maybe feels a little uneven and some of the songs (or parts of them!) can be a little cloying. However, the album is well worth checking out for the plus points; Fred Frith student, Karl Evangelista’s guitar playing, which is excellent whether improvised solo or sonic sculptures and the guitar/synth instrumental extensions which take these tracks into exhilarating and unexpected areas.