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Album Review

A collection of recordings about the act of recording — complete with titles such as "Feedback Love," "Soundwaves," and "Preamp" — Tests, the debut full-length from Phil Elvrum's Microphones, lays out much of the sonic groundwork that follows on subsequent releases. From echo-laden dub vignettes to psychedelic flourishes to Sonic Youth-inspired noise experiments to kiddie twee pop about "high pitch treble monsters," Elvrum paints from a wide palette. But, true to the title, Tests is a little too all-over-the-place to make for a satisfying album. It sounds more like Elvrum with a host of friends in tow (including Calvin Johnson of Dub Narcotic and Karl Blau of D+) just having a lot of fun with a room full of musical toys. It's the sound of the artist testing the depths of his nascent project. It makes sense to hear this album after later, more fully realized work such as Don't Wake Me Up or It was Hot We Stayed in the Water, and see where the ideas originated, otherwise it will just sound excessive and uncalculated.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Microphones was the alias of Anacortes, WA-based lo-fi psych-pop mastermind Phil Elvrum, also known for his work as a member of K Records bands D+ and Old Time Relijun. Following a series of cassettes on the local Knw-Yr-Own label, including Wires and Cords, Tests, and a self-titled effort, the Microphones issued their first full-length effort, also titled Tests, on the Elsinor label in the autumn 1999. Don't Wake Me Up appeared on K the next summer, followed in 2000 by Window and It Was Hot...
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Tests, Microphones
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