What do you do when you’ve booked a couple days with a well-respected, talented engineer to record your proper debut EP at a nice studio, and the only other musician tapped to appear on the sessions gets violently ill on the first day of tracking? If you’re Supriya Gunda of Digital Prisoners of War, you persevere, record guitars, bass, keys, and vocals to a click track . . . and end up with Murph from Dinosaur Jr. playing on half of your record.
Of course, a representation of the daily struggle of personal motivation and social relationships with an ultimately redemptive outcome is as par for the course on Gunda’s new EP, casually defying physics, as it is in the story behind its recording. Many Bostonites will recognize Gunda from her work with off-kilter pop and rock bands like Hats & Glasses, Earth People Orchestra, Beach Hair, and Lost Twin. (Full disclosure: She also played a large part in the recent history of my own band, Bent Shapes.) Fewer folks will be aware of her sporadic solo output as DigiPOW, but if you’ve heard casually defying physics, you may well be convinced that’s about to change.
The four-song EP is Gunda’s first official release as Digital Prisoners of War and accomplishes a balancing act on the line between comedy and tragedy by marrying complicated subtext to straightforward but well-textured and -layered hooks. With song names like “kill whitey” and “burn the village to save the village,” and the remaining titles referencing legendary 20th-century classical heroes Béla Bartók (“bela bar talk”) and Glenn Gould (“last resort method”), it’s clear that there’s a significant amount of thought going into the songs, but the vocals are more plaintive than playful in most cases. Gunda expounds on the solitude, desire, and hopelessness that lurk in the shadows cast by any personal relationship, yet the strength of the melodies speaks of a tenacity necessary to overcome and address such social roadblocks.
Musically, the songs are heavy, with guitars-as-blunt-objects coated in rich distortion, driving bass, slow-creeping keyboards seeping into the mix here and there, and thundering drums (half provided by the aforementioned Emmett Jefferson “Murph” Murphy III, after he stopped by to visit engineer Justin Pizzoferrato and offered his services; and half played by Cynthia Koch of Lost Twin and Sweet John Bloom). Fans of Speedy Ortiz, California X, or Young Adults may recognize a signature intensity lent by Pizzoferrato, but Gunda’s uniquely nuanced performances make it difficult to compare the EP to other recent releases.
Accessible but never saccharine, with a depth that belies its pop sensibility, DigiPOW’s first true EP is an excellent introduction to a project that we’ll hopefully be hearing a lot more from very soon.
Up for a day trip? Go see DigiPOW on a bonkers show February 10th at Palisades in Brooklyn with Laced and Parquet Courts.