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When bands get dropped from major labels they are often so emotionally spent by the experience (and so deep in debt) that they just pack it in. But when Edsel was dropped (following Techniques of Speed Hypnosis) from Relativity’s assembly line like the Ford folly the band is named after, the D.C. quartet adopted the philosophy of fellow rock stars Night Ranger and just kept motorin’.
Edsel’s new CD, Extended Play (Radiopaque/Dischord), is actually the group’s finest. The four-track disc alternates two of Edsel’s strongest pop songs (“Perched Like a Parasite” and “Shake Out Your Shirt”) with two of its most far-reaching: The Glenn Branca/Stereolabish “Beta’s Device” incorporates drone and dissonant strings, and the ballad “Thinner Than Thin” eventually slides into dubbed-out electronica. But none of the tracks would have fit the newly reconstituted Relativity’s focus, anyway.
“Between us recording [Techniques] and it coming out, [Relativity] started to change…to the urban format, which we didn’t quite fit into,” explains guitarist/singer Sohrab Habibion. “We were willing, though.”
“Yeah, sure,” chimes fellow guitarist Steve Raskin. “We were willing to make a hiphop record.”
“Edsel Thugs-n-Harmony,” declares Homeslice Habibion.
Techniques received a lot of press coverage, and college radio warmed to the single “Glazed by the Cold Front,” but the plug was pulled on the CD before the track reached commercial alternative radio. And before Extended Play, Techniques was Edsel’s Cadillac release. But don’t think of that album as a “lost” classic.
“My guess is [Relativity] pressed enough copies that it will probably be in print for a while just because there’s no one bum-rushin’ the stores for copies,” says Habibion. “My guess is they probably pressed 10,000 copies, and God help us if 10,000 people actually buy that record.”
The break with Relativity was relatively clean, so Edsel just shifted gears. “Before [signing to the major label] we didn’t have any money. For a year we had some money. And then we didn’t have any money anymore,” says Habibion. But the band never thought of quitting. “It was just how we were going to work out a scenario to most comfortably match the new financial situation,” he says.
Despite that Extended Play seems a decisive shift in sound for the nearly decade-old band, Raskin and Habibion see it as a continuance. “We’re just trying to be as experimental as we’ve always been, in a pop format,” Raskin explains.
“As whatever as we wanna be,” mimics Habibion.
Edsel hopes to go into the studio to record a new album in June, but Raskin and Habibion are keeping busy with side projects (natch). Margo is Habibion’s solo home-recording project, and he’s readying a double-CD to be self-released in May, accompanied by a 64-page hardback book featuring artwork inspired by the tunes. Raskin explains his partner’s project as “Eno meets Tom Waits. There’s a very experimental approach to the music. Nontraditional instruments, maybe pots
“There are no pots and pans,” clarifies Habibion.
Raskin’s three electronic projects are Lift-Off, Americruiser, and Thunderball, the last of which he describes as “ambient, drive-by jungle.” Lift-Off and Thunderball both have tracks slated for May release on 18th St. Records’ Dubbed Out in D.C., and there’s an imminent Margo vs. Thunderball soundclash, which may include the use of pots and pans on a fast-rap gangsta ballad.