At Home And Unaffected is the second release from young electronic artist Caleb Mueller, and like his first release Taking Things Apart, it is constructed entirely from found sounds captured in his apartment. Released on the excellent small (but upcoming) label Unschooled, the release is a somewhat bizarre combination of hyper-complex programmed rhythms and beats and vocals from Mueller himself that sometimes are overwrought enough to pop the word "emo" into mind.
"Whose Side Are You On?" opens the release and the five-minute track is a perfect combination of the aforementioned. At the beginning of the track, some acoustic guitar chords strum away while Mueller sings away, but as the track reaches the chorus, the programming launches into a breakneck pace before calming down again. The track progresses like a fairly standard pop track for awhile, moving back and forth between more subdued and serious freakouts, then bursts into an extended beat freakout to close things out.
"At Home Part One" strips out the more traditional singing and the track skitters and pings with all manner of sound sources as eating utensils, single piano notes, bits of conversation, fret noise, and all kinds of other apartment life are chopped-up and run through a Venetian Snares-style programming shakedown. A good majority of the tracks on the album actually work with this same sort of sound-sources and progression. "Guitar/Trivial Pursuit," "Beatbox," "At Home Part Two," and "Bathroom/Guitar/Piano" all spray super-fast programming and beatwork, and while they're all very technically proficient, they tend to numb the senses and blur together after awhile.
In other places, Mueller brings more of a pop sensibility into the tracks, and the results are rather hit-or-miss. "...And Unaffected" blends a wordless chorus of 60s pop style vocals in alongside the crazy stuttering beatscapes and the result is pretty darn fun while "Piano/Melodeon" is the only track on the release in which there is absolutely no beats, and it feels like a complete breath of fresh air. On the other side of things, "Distraction" comes across like Jimmy Eat World doing laptop pop with Mueller dropping in some nasal, overbearing vocals.
As a whole, At Home And Unaffected is a valiant effort of both sampling and songcraft, but it just doesn't quite fit together. The only track that seems to balance everything properly is the closing track on the release, a seven-minute epic entitled "The Wars" that actually has some melodic elements along with all the clattering and vocals that aren't always right in the front of the mix. There are some unique moments here, but unfortunately At Home And Unaffected defaults to the wicked programming far too often and what should be dazzling instead becomes far too repetitive.