by Tim Draut
I recently received this interesting little gem of a record that I pre-ordered from Gold Robot Records after downloading for free on Bandcamp. Coral is the debut full-length LP from Ohio-based sample wizard Monster Rally, which was released last week in a limited edition of 250 pressings on opaque sea foam green vinyl. While the album consists mostly of new material, a few tracks were derived from Monster Rally’s previous three EPs Palm Reader, Color Sky, and a self-titled EP, which were all released last summer.
Monster Rally is the exotic, sample-based pop project of Cleveland native Ted Feighan. He found inspiration in digging through thrift store record bins and building a collection of obscure albums from around the world and programming them into his sampler. Without focusing on any particular region, time period, or genre, Monster Rally seamlessly weaves and intertwines loops of tropical tinged melodies and exotic hip-hop beats to create a lush sonic excursion through back issues of National Geographic, and vacation spots that only exist in dreams.
The samples used are primarily instrumental, though there are some vocals peppered around the album including the psychedelic singing on “Color Sky.” Interesting snippets of spoken word, perhaps lifted from vintage radio, can be found on “Heart of Grass” and even more so on “Splash Talk,” one of the more experimental tracks to be heard here.
It is easy to get lost in a record such as this, as it is designed to take listeners to far away places rather than demanding your undivided attention to the music. Most of the tracks on Coral, such as "Color Sky," “Heart of Grass,” “Rainbow Rd.” and “Ribbons” sound like they are glistening in coastal sunshine, while others such as “Swamp Campfire,” one of my favorite tracks off the album, lead you deep into mysterious jungles with ritualistic drumming and fleeting melodies of exotic guitar, swirling keyboards, and even a little pan-flute paving the way towards sanctuary.
Monster Rally absorbs you into his exotic dreamscapes by inducing a euphoric trance through his use of calculated repetition. That being said, the tracks on Coral are often split between different melodic arrangements or “destinations,” carefully avoiding the possibility of wearing out any particular loop past its welcome. As soon as you start to become tired of hearing the same sound, it picks you up and gently places you into uncharted territory.
The shifting elements are held together by a unified sense of wonder and mystique, enhanced by simple, cerebral grooves and beats. The album maintains a very colorful, flavorful aesthetic throughout its forty-minute runtime. Listening to Coral instills the listener with a sense of travel and relaxation, like taking a tropical summer vacation without ever leaving your bedroom. It’s an introspective, hypnotic album, that is meant to be listened to as a whole, allowing yourself to sink into the sounds and soak up the sunbeams. The most disappointing part, as with any vacation real or imagined, is that you have to come back to reality at some point.