November 28th, 2015 | Album reviews

Castle Face

One of Tim Presley’s great qualities is his constant restlessness. Even when the longtime L.A. singer-songwriter stops and focuses his attention on one project for a while—the smeared pop-rock of Darker My Love, the frazzled psych of White Fence—you get the feeling he’s constantly glancing around, looking for a trap door. Over the past few years, his work as White Fence has evolved from warped experimentalism to more conventional forms, so it’s no surprise that Presley spent 2015 exploring new sounds, first with Cate Le Bon under the name Drinks, and more recently as W-X, a solo side project and/or alter-ego. Here, Presley invites us behind the curtain, and the reveal is delightful, if a bit disorienting. Across 20 tracks, Presley dabbles in rubbery, tight-lipped funk (“Running from the Dogs”), cut-and-paste sound collage (“Copping in the Afternoon,” “Restless Leg”), noisy reverb-rock (“Clean It Glen”), burbling hip-hop beats (“The Lurk”) and swirling synth-psych exercises (“Dancing Lips,” “Brazilian Worm Band”). Occasionally—“Steer Clear,” for example—Presley lifts his veil and shows off the fuzzy pop chops that has made him one of this city’s vital artists over the past decade. But those are palate cleansers in this set. Ultimately, W-X is like a tour through Presley’s sketchbook; some of its doodles stand on their own, while others show promise and a few just wander. And that’s OK. A wander through Presley’s restless mind is a trip worth taking.

—Ben Salmon