You'd be hard-pressed to find an album with a more severe split-personality disorder than Hocus-Pocus, the latest from futuristic New York City rockers Enon. The first track, "Shave," rides along to a laid-back electro groove and bassist Toko Yasuda's breathy ultrafemme vocals. The second, "The Power of Yawning," is a catchy alt-rocker yelped by guitarist John Schmersal that would fit right in on a Guided by Voices record. Both songs are great, but what the hell are they doing on the same disc, let alone being performed by the same band?
"It's true," Yasuda laughs over the phone from her Brooklyn apartment. "I agree, it sounds like two bands. But we don't really have time to do two." Since the time Schmersal started Enon as a studio project dedicated to a hamlet outside his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, the band has released three albums with vocals on them, two instrumental records, six singles, and two years' worth of "songs of the month" -- MP3s found exclusively on their www.enontv.net website. "We keep busy," Yasuda understates. "I have a studio in my place with Pro Tools, John has a home studio, and we have a practice space where we can play loud." The constant flow of material recently paid dividends as "Mikazuki," a Japanese-language percussion-heavy lullaby that Yasuda had written for the website, captured Schmersal's heart and wound up on Hocus-Pocus.
If that weren't enough, Schmersal also had to replace Enon's first rhythm section with Yasuda and childhood friend Matt Schultz (drums). In addition, he was forced to revamp his sound and style when guitarist Rick Lee left the band just before the release of High Society, the group's second album. Lee's prodigious chops and battery-operated effects were a great influence on Believo!, Enon's debut. When the group played live, Lee's riffage allowed Schmersal to put down his ax and scare the crowd with guerrilla-theater antics. "What? You don't know the words?" Schmersal barked at a clueless sorority girl in the middle of the dance floor during a 2001 Miami show at Revolver. "So what? Sing along!" Thirty seconds later, the nervous beach bunny was mouthing nonsensical lyrics along with the Motown-by-way-of-Butthole Surfers anthem "Rubber Car."
"It was hard when Rick left," Yasuda laments today. "He's not a replaceable person. We had so much more stuff to do that John couldn't run around anymore. I'm sure he misses it." While the opportunity to badger brain-dead drones into rocking out may be gone, trimming Enon to a trio sharpened the band's resolve. It allowed Yasuda, who wasn't around for the Believo! sessions, to take a more pronounced role in the band. High Society introduced four Yasuda compositions, most notably the haunting electro-funk number "In This City," which was recently rereleased as a remix EP, complete with video clips for "In This City," "Carbonation," and "Pleasure and Privilege."
Videos are an important component in Enon's world. Whereas most historians point to MTV's debut as the moment when rock music began to suck and Kajagoogoo took over, Schmersal's raison d'existence was born in the early '80s when his fellow Ohioans in Devo proved that music could be cutting-edge and video-friendly. Despite Yasuda's Japanese upbringing -- and lack of Empteevee -- her mom's Prince and David Bowie videotapes kept her A/V senses working overtime until she went stateside in 1992. Eleven years and three bands later, Yasuda conceptualized Enon's latest video, "Murder Sounds."
"We did it last week," Yasuda enthuses. "It's creepy but sweet. It's about a nightmare I had when I was little and I had a fever. It had a dark sky, apple trees, a red roof, and giant boots." While some may blanch at reliving their childhood nightmares, Yasuda is eager to share it with the world. "I don't think videos are scary," she says in a soft sing-song voice. "It has a story to it -- a kind of story, anyway."
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