Free Energy (Trouble In Mind)

Contact Patrick Tilley about Dummy

Dummy — the Los Angeles band comprised of Alex Ewell, Emma Maatman, Nathan O’Dell, and Joe Trainor — announces its new album, Free Energy, out September 6th on Trouble In Mind Records, and shares the lead single/video, “Nullspace.” Pop has always been a big part of Dummy’s sound, but it manifests differently on Free Energy. Sometimes it’s quite literal (and funny), such as the bubbly synth sequence made with a Korg EM1 popping all over lead single “Nullspace,” which features a melody written by O’Dell and is the song the band calls the record’s “sonic mission statement and really influenced by Mark Van Hoen, especially the cut-up dreamy dance-pop he was making on the Locust record Morning Light.”


Dummy’s debut full-length Mandatory Enjoyment arrived in late 2021 and quickly became one of the year’s sleeper hits. Pitchfork, Bandcamp Daily, Stereogum, Aquarium Drunkard, and other publications praised Dummy’s mix of ambient and twinkly guitar pop, their deep musical references, and the intentionality with which they patchworked it all together. Fans bought copies of Mandatory so quickly that Trouble in Mind couldn’t keep it in stock. Sub Pop Records also invited the band to contribute to their legendary Singles Club series. Bands loved Dummy, too, and the group were asked to open for Horsegirl, Botch, Black Country, New Road, Luna, Spirit of the Beehive, Dehd, Snooper, Sweeping Promises, Snail Mail, and more.


Where Mandatory Enjoyment was cerebral and lo-fi, the product of a lot of time inside, Free Energy is all movement, presence, and physicality. A creatively restless band, Dummy felt like they had done the best version of motorik pop that they could do, and wanted to get harder, dancier, a little more psychedelic. Ewell and Trainor began experimenting with home recording, using DAW as kind of an instrument for composition rather than simply a tool. O’Dell dug deeper into instrumental/sample composition, in addition to contributing more guitar leads. Maatman also steps into the spotlight in a big way, her vocals noticeably foregrounded and confident, adding to the live performance feel that forms the foundation of Free Energy. The result is a record that celebrates music’s ability to move the body, whether that be through a teeth-rattling wall of MBV-esque noise, a sticky pop chorus, or a joyous drum machine—or, if you’re Dummy, maybe all of them in the same song.


Additionally, Free Energy features guest appearances by friends Dummy has played with on tour, including Oakland-based saxophonist and electroacoustic artist Cole Pulice and Jen Powers of Powers / Rolin Duo, along with a series of field recordings the band made while on tour: the rushing of water, the rumbling of the van, indistinct voices, chirping birds; the sounds of mundanity rising to cacophony before petering out, treated no differently than the ecstatic rhythms, explosive hooks, and blissful ambient stretches that came before. If there is any key to understanding what makes Dummy such a compelling band, perhaps it is this: it’s all music to them.


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