It's no secret that Gavin Russom is an "out there" fellow. After all, he's the same guy who littered the early DFA catalog with lengthy, often beatless, psychedelic synthesizer jams that had more in common with the celestial explorations of Tangerine Dream than the early-'00s NYC dance-punk scene. In the years that have followed, he's proved to be a sort of shape-shifter, releasing more dancefloor-inclined work—that was often still quite out of the ordinary—under the names Black Leotard Front, Black Meteoric Star, and The Crystal Ark. Now, he's come back to his own name and released "Night Sky," an effort that takes his weirdness to a whole new level.
"Night Sky" begins in unassuming fashion, with a gradually swelling analog-synth melody that could have been lifted from an old Nintendo game. About two and a half minutes into the song, some Bono-esque vocals enter the mix, surprisingly delivered by Russom himself. From there, things go downhill, particularly when some cringe-worthy classic-rock guitar licks are added to the proceedings. Worst of all, the song just keeps going... and going, eventually passing the 13-minute mark before reaching its finale. Along the way, the track just becomes more and more ostentatious with a pulsing techno beat, assorted organic percussion, and a ridiculous shouted "We are the night!" vocal refrain. The whole thing is like an acid trip—a bad one, the kind that you just want to be over.
The b-side fares much better, as Mutant Beat Dance—a collaboration between Beau Wanzer and Melvin Oliphant III (a.k.a. Traxx)—strips out the bombast and cuts "Night Sky" down to a much more manageable eight-plus minutes. There's barely a trace of Russom's vocals or psychedelic flourishes, as the Chicago-based duo instead builds an edgy, workmanlike techno number that leans heavily on a litany of vintage drum-machine and synth sounds. In all honesty, the "Mutant Beat Dance Adjustment" bears little resemblance to the original "Night Sky," which is probably why it's the far superior offering on this 12".