I’ve been obsessed with the new Geese album, 3D Country, this past week. It’s like this crazy stew of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kings of Leon, the Doors, and X. But then again, not quite. They are their own thing, which we all should aspire to be. The friend who linked me to their record offered Steely Dan as a part of his musical genetics analysis. And there is some of that, truly. Early Steely Dan, at least, is a big part of the feel, but there’s a bunch of other stuff piled on, layered over, until all these comparisons are really just hints and handwaving because you have to hear it to get it. They have that NYC band confidence, but seemingly no superiority complex. It’s honestly thrilling to listen to music that sounds new, I mean really new.

3D Country album cover
3D Country

There’s something compelling about the self-indulgent production—at once everything-but-the-kitchen-sink and stripped down presence—juxtaposed with a punk-like carelessness toward arrangement. Geese are tight, and there’s plenty of craft on display. But it’s a bit like Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin: a barely-controlled chaos of notes that feels like someone musically falling down the stairs at first, but somehow comes across as deliberate and skilled. Everything feels both cavalier and purposeful.

Cameron Winter’s vocals are thrilling throughout this consistently good album. He hardly delivers a line the same way twice. He goes from tender to shredded shouting to throaty affectation in a blur of abandon. It seemed to me as I was listening for the first time that an AI visualizer or audio generator would never have come up with anything so strange, singular, wonderful, and essentially human. Talk about your barbaric yawps.

I just read an article about AI in the music industry (apologies for the paywall; Reader version on Firefox worked for me), and it contains the customary hand-wringing alongside the usual open-ended questions: what does this mean for the future of music? Should musicians despair? But, honestly, my reaction is “meh.” It’s not that it doesn’t suck to assume that labels and the few remaining bloated corporate amoebas that have absorbed all the smaller ones will try to use “AI” to crank out more cheesy merchandise. But everything I’ve heard so far is bland or directionless. For lack of a better term, it’s generic. If people are worried that it sounds pretty good, my knee-jerk reaction is that it’s because—as in every era—there’s so much homogenized fluff that’s trying to sound like the other fluff.

But there are always the amazing gems out there. There are always the chocolate-covered strawberries amongst the piles of under-ripe and mushy decaying ones. It’s like generated art. It was amazing at first, but even as it’s become more polished, lots of it is starting to look more or less the same, and rather lifeless. Blandified. AI isn’t making anything NEW and COOL, just pretty versions of some styles that exist. I don’t want to be dismissive, but I followed several AI art subreddits to watch as it evolved, and I’m getting bored irritatingly soon. Maybe I’ll be surprised, but I’m losing confidence. This is the essential problem of AI, and of technology as a whole: it’s all a big maybe. It’s not an inevitable linear increase in ability and quality. New methods and processes can rise quickly but stall, for a long time, or indefinitely. Consider virtual reality, fusion power, and self-driving cars—or the ever-present fantasy of (that’s right, USENET refugees, I see you).

It’s easy to be dazzled by the rapid rise in ability of AI art generators. It’s also very hard to know how capable it will get. One thing that nearly always holds about the future is that it’s impossible to predict with relative accuracy, and the further out one tries to see, the less likely it gets. History is littered with futurists who failed to divine the future. There’s just as much reason to speculate that this tech is following a logarithmic curve that rises quickly but soon levels off, and no one knows if we’ll actually reach the asymptote. At least with what’s been produced so far.

And so we have Geese! This band sounds like the future, that’s how fun and exciting it is to listen to. I feel vindicated again in my firm stance as a kids-are-alrighter. They are simultaneously unpretentious and ambitious. Both new and cool. The band casually spins out uncategorizable, crazy cool mashups of styles. Something humans can do best, and may always.

[Edit 7-23-23: Geese are Cameron Winter, Gus Green, Foster Hudson, Dominic DiGesu, Max Bassin]







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