Language Lessons is the latest album from California-based musical group Identical Homes. Active for over ten years, the band is lead by Daniel McKenzie and blends electronic, ambient, and rock influences to form experimentally-charged, spacy songs. Their latest project dives deeper into this format with some of the band’s longest pieces–one reaching nearly nine minutes. Featuring Mathew Solberg on guitar, Language Lessons also continues the band’s hint of post-rock with subtle riffs bleeding in throughout Daniel’s composition. Adding synth, drums, and even an organ, the album becomes a groovy, cinematic experience that makes you think of 90s sci-fi and space-age comic books.
Daniel’s style can be described as laid-back yet complex. The synth on “Sailor, Baby” dances around Eric Kuhn’s percussion before guitar and bass enter towards the track’s end, mixing a simple intro with a more layered outro. The song is a solidly crafted piece of music, but its length is unjustified with too little happening and too few unique ideas. The same can be said of “Deer Park Opening,” which fades in and out through hazy synth that, while somewhat haunting, is rather indiscernible from the ideas found on the title track. This issue spreads through the whole project. Though nothing found on Language Lessons is bad, very little of it displays interesting or new ideas.
Language Lessons is a frustrating mix of skilled musicianship and underdeveloped songs. Some entries, like “Smoke Rainbow (through the color glass),” suggest exciting potential with the first minute or so presenting an interesting blend of organ and twisted production. Still, other entries sound like an arcade game’s background music–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except when that sound is stretched beyond its welcome. Maybe Language Lessons would work as a film soundtrack, but it doesn’t exactly work on its own.