I think the concept of B-sides is a little bit different these days than it used to be. Like when Smashing Pumpkins put together Pisces Iscariot to follow Siamese Dream, they intended it to be and sequenced it like an actual front-to-back album, even if it wasn’t the official follow-up to their breakthrough masterpiece. And while we’re awaiting the official follow-up to Nomadic Firs’ splendid self-titled debut, helmsman Ryan Boos drops a B-sides collection of his own, Mystic Color Faze, an enormous and generous release featuring thirty-six (!) “new sounds, hold overs, alt edits, and previously unreleased singles.”
Mystic Color Faze is the poster child for Internet-age B-sides collections, and the antithesis to the Smashing Pumpkins’ example above. Its utter vastness would be counterintuitive to a wax pressing, but as an online-only curiosity, it makes total sense – we’re still waiting for the next Nomadic Firs full-length, right? This tides us over. Beyond that, again, it shows Boos’ complete generosity – thirty-six tracks for seven bones? Uh, yeah. That sounds juuuust about right.
It also allows a wider range of potential listeners various points of entry into the Nomadic Firs catalog. This is to say, wherever you start, you’re in for a treat. Whether it’s instrumental indie-dance highlight “The Valley” or its fleshed-out companion (and one of the best songs in Boos’ catalog) “In the Valley,” or the tripped-out sampley goodness of the title track, or the gorgeous original versions of Nomadic Firs highlights “Generations” or “i94, or … or … or I could just go on for a while. You’ll find gems throughout. They’re not rare.
I’m pleased that digital single “Lavish Hush” made the cut here, as it was one of my favorite tracks from 2013 and certainly deserving of a place on an album. I reviewed it earlier this year, and called Boos a “chorus machine” in it – I stand by that assessment. “Starfish Kids,” another digital single (which also appeared on Chill Mega Chill’s Halloween compilation The Chiller Part 2: House on Haunted Chill) is also appended to Mystic Color Faze. It’s a bit more low key, a bit more, dare I say, spooky (get it?) than other Nomadic Firs material. It melts in your earbuds like candy corn on a furnace, a sticky sweet mess. And hey, Mystic Color Faze even does a Pisces Iscariot impression by beginning with “Merry Go Round Memory,” a gentle number cloaked in echo and ambient reverb, with Boos’ voice cooing along with a gently picked guitar. It’s like the song wanted to dress up as the Pumpkins’ “Soothe” for Halloween. (Although, I think I may give the nod to “Merry Go Round Memory” if I ever had to choose one of the two songs to dress up as for Halloween. And no, I don’t know what I’m talking about at this point either.) The song is one of the most affecting and beautiful in Boos’ catalog, and is tailor-made for all you desperate romantics out there.
It’s hard, though, to get a handle on a thirty-six song collection. It’s kind of daunting if you’re not familiar, and it’s easy to get lost. Fortunately, Nomadic Firs lost is different than lost lost, so it’s all relative when you’re immersed in such great sound. Some of the more unfinished pieces or snippets certainly belong on the cutting-room floor of a proper album, but here they offer a glimpse into the process, and as presented in this format, they’re as welcome as they’ll ever be. In the end it’s hard to argue with such an enormous treasure trove of material – it’s a lot to get through, but worth it in the end.
RIYL: Kevin Drew, The Beta Band, Animal Collective, Power Animal