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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reptar side project Thick Paint teams with Qurious for split cassette

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Over the last few years, Athens-based Reptar has been on a swift ascent; packing out collegiate rock clubs across the country with its brand of exuberant, indie-electro dance anthems. But behind closed doors vocalist Graham Ulicny has been quietly building up a cache of songs under the name Thick Paint. It’s a project that shows off an improvised, but no less groove-oriented agenda that’s wholly different from Reptar’s place as the life of the party, but one that Ulicny feels is a vital mode of self-expression.

In June, the first of these Thick Paint recordings, “Treat Friends Right” materialized on Bandcamp, followed by the Infinite Mood EP. This month his first physical offering arrived as a split cassette with Qurious via Quality Faucet Records. Qurious filled up the B-side with a handful of songs that have already made their way out into the world via their Bandcamp site — “Tree Spirits,” “Another Language,” and a Thick Paint remix of “Photinus.”

With the A-side, Ulicny’s songs (“No Doubt,” “Arms Folded,” and “Urgent”) take a sharp right turn away from the buoyancy of Reptar to focus on the power of a groove. It’s avant-garde disco, if you will, and Ulicny clearly didn’t put these songs together to function solely as pretty music. It’s subtle, but there’s an air of catharsis lying in the spaces between stripped down arrangements of sampled instruments that fosters a sense of immediacy. Each of these numbers are improvised, so the structures that bind “Arms Folded” and “Urgent” are reflexive, and each one carries a sense of both freedom and isolation that comes from working alone. The fairly limited sound palette that he used to craft these rhythmic excursions, however, doesn’t leave much wiggle room to get lost in anything but the groove.

“It’s easy for me to go overboard when I’m using electronics, but recently I’ve learned to tone it down; concentrate more on building a groove,” Ulicny says, invoking such names as Dinosaur L and Arthur Russell — both fixtures of in the secret, avant-garde history of disco. “I think Arthur Russell’ music changes everyone who is exposed to it.”

Qurious and Thick Paint have embarked on a brief mid-summer tour together, taking them up and down the Eastern Seaboard, before making their way back to Atlanta for a show at 529 with Tesseract (from Zebulon, GA) on Wednesday, July 18. “I’ve always wanted to go on tour with Thick Paint and make it a real band,” he says, while adding that during these shows he generally sits on the floor and plays a sampler, a keyboard, and sings by himself —improvising as he goes, so the songs are in a constant state of change. “It’s important to have balance,” he adds. “Reptar has become its own thing, and that band is only one expression of myself. Thick Paint may be on the opposite end of the spectrum for me, but both are gratifying and real.”

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