Rafter Roberts is one of those people whose entire life seems to revolve around music. His day job is making music for television commercials (apparently some very big ones, as it says his work has been featured during both the Olympics and the Superbowl), while he also has his own studio and has produced and engineered releases by bands as widely ranging as the Fiery Furnaces, Castanets, and Rocket From The Crypt. Apparently, when he got a little bit of free time on his hands, he decide to - yes, you guessed it - make his own album.
Apparently working with all those different artists along with his job of creating jingles has filtered into his brain somehow and all come out the other side on this insanely hodge-podged debut release. With eighteen tracks running just under forty minutes, songs come spitting out rapid-fire, changing time signatures, instrumental foundation, singers, and style just about as often as they can. In essence, it sounds like he and the fifteen people that joined him on various tracks and in various ways on the release basically just sat down and let things spill out of their head.
The first two tracks and three minutes of the album are a perfect example of what to expect as "Encouragement" mixes free-form drumming, hyper-overdriven synth moans, and male/female vocals in a way that sounds something like Sufjan Stevens as stripped and remixed by Lightning Bolt. "Hope" follows, and after a quiet acoustic guitar and vocal introducion, the track builds with a chorus, chimes, harp, and clattering percussion before ending in the same way that it started. "Gentle Men" is just as frantic, mixing drum machine beats with live drums in woozy time signatures while strummed guitars try to keep time and a quiet vocal-driven mid-section gives way to Laurie Anderson-esque synth arpeggios and female vocals.
There are only a couple songs on the entire album over three minutes, and they're easily some of the best on the entire album. "Your War" starts out in similar free-pop territory, but morphs into a punishing mid-section before an amazingly beautiful ending with horns and multi-track vocals rises out the other end of it. Elsewhere, "Boy" mixes throbbing electric guitar chords with understated vocals and off-kilter percussion for something quite affecting. Needless to say, Music For Total Chickens is deconstructed, abstract pop music to say the least. With the way songs evolve, devolve, and simply start up and drop out, it will definitely appeal to those who don't mind albums that constantly leave everything behind in search of the next fix. To me, the real moments of pleasure are a few too few and far between, with needlessly twitchy music that oftentimes hits a great spot only to leave it behind a few moments later. Occasionally entertaining, and often frustrating, this one could have used a little more focus.