I'm skeptical of any band that's audacious enough to take its name from a Fugazi song, especially one as jarring and near-perfect as "Long Distance Runner." Not only does that force a whole mess of preconceptions onto a band's sound, but it forces the band to deliver on them. You can't just reference one of the definitive bands of American punk rock and then play, say, distant, mashed-up electronica.
But this is exactly what Portland's Kyle Briggs (a.k.a. Long Distance Runner) does, and it's frustrating. Not because The Fire of Cumulative Hoursis bad, but because it's close to being pretty good—"After the Math," for example, bursts with bells and strings that shine beautifully through a wall of glitchy beats. But where "After the Math" and even "Los Nihongoristas" succeed, "Mongolian Disco in Exile" fails, sounding like a b-side from some Euro-pop band's tragic foray into world music.
I think much of my problem with The Fire of Cumulative Hourshas to do with its length. The five-song record is an awkward 29 minutes, a time situated squarely between concise EP and drawn-out full-length. So even with its (mostly) well-crafted songs, the album is bound to dissatisfy because it leaves you knowing that Long Distance Runner almost had a good, solid album, but that Briggs instead stopped short. Maybe he didn't have the time. Maybe he didn't have the money. I certainly couldn't fault him for any of that, but this is still just a heady, breakbeat-ridden near-miss.
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