CULTURE- BUZZBOX- Grab on: 'Infinite Delay' worth dozens of listens

Triangulating between Sigur Ros, Mogwai, and the 1700 block of JPA would probably land you squarely on Stuart Watson's  doorstep. The 25-year-old guitar player would surely be glad to see you, too: it would mean he'd be able to sell you a copy of  Infinite Delay, the wonderful third recording– and first LP– from his instrumental rock quartet, Graboids.

The band is named after the burrowing mutant earthworms from Kevin Bacon's camptastic 1990 horror flick Tremors, and the album is named after the guitarists' love affair with effects pedals. "Pedals are a big part of our sound," says Watson, adding that he sometimes thinks of them as instruments in and of themselves.

"When we were out on the summer tour, the setup time got pretty crazy," he says.

But on Infinite Delay, they had the discipline to quell the urge to use filters and reverbs as compositional crutches. It's not hard to imagine them holed up in a cramped practice space, passionately arguing about whether to run their echoes with eight notes or triplets and surrounded by growing piles of crumpled charts and graph paper filled with drafts of the performance script.

Watson verifies this image: "We labored over each track," he says. "We tried to place stuff more than we did in the past." That was even harder than usual, he adds, because they made a conscious effort to keep the song length down.

It shows: Infinite Delay completely, totally, fantastically eclipses their previous EP's, which now almost seem like a joke  in comparison. The best tracks are worth at least a dozen spins a day, and Graboids have unexpectedly established the steepest upward trajectory of anybody making instrumental rock in Charlottesville (though we may have to reconsider that when Thrum's debut drops next month). If the Hook gave out music awards, Graboids would sweep "Most Improved" in a heartbeat.

But it's the delta value on their artistic value that's so striking. The disc itself, on the other hand, still has some of the problems to be expected from a band just earning its wings. Many of the distorted guitars seem to just fizzle out when they're obviously trying to crush, some of the songs could still stand to be shorter, and disruptive hip-hop rhymes loaded with a British accent just obscure what would otherwise be a more appropriately meditative closing sequence. Watson explains that they were added for comic value, but they really didn't need to mock themselves– they could have pulled it off.

Overall, however, this outing from the chronically underrated group shows tremendous promise. It may not be right for everyone, but anybody who was lucky enough to score a ticket to next week's sold-out Explosions In The Sky show at Starr Hill would do well to check out this local equivalent. Keep your ear to the ground and listen for the rumbling; Infinite Delay sort of feels like the album that comes just before the great one.

Graboids, Minus The Sidekick, and the Railways downstairs at the Outback Lodge Friday, March 9. $6, 10pm.

The Graboids
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