If there’s one thing about the mainstream music industry that rings in as annoyingly true, it’s that almost everything follows a formulaic pop-guided trend regardless of the specific genre that each individual track might be categorized into. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, per se, but it most certainly is a thing that would get rather boring after only a short while should we as music enthusiasts ever designate ourselves wholly to the Top 40 charts. Embracing the idea that music is an expression of one’s soul that is unique per every individual and henceforth should follow no specific rules during its craft is Chicagoan indie outlet Counterfeit i, an experimental project fronted solely by one multi-talented Derek Allen unless they’re on the road, in which case the live band is also comprised of bassist and keys-player Ryan Worthy and drummer Tyler Kirgiss. The ensemble was founded by Allen, who had followed the local heavy rock and punk scenes rather diligently throughout his youth and subsequently became bored of the specific formula bands tended to follow for each of their releases, in 2008 with, again, one goal in mind: to make music with no holds barred.
One year after the release of the band’s Still (Vol. I) comes the second volume of the underground ensemble’s EP series. In comparing the first volume to the second, Allen once said, “It’s still ambient, but has louder tendencies.” — Indeed, the second EP, mastered by Colin Jordan, trades out much of the first’s fine-tuned finesse for something more raw and energized, but equally as good as the last, and Allen once again proves that not all music labeled as “experimental” is an incoherent jumbling of unpleasant sounds for the listener to “somehow” be inspired by. It may be that Allen’s craft follows no wholly specific formula, but the music of Counterfeit i is still that: music. Raw, emotion-driven, atmospheric, dreamscape-esque music made for the heart and the soul to behold like no other.
At Counterfeit i’s best, they’re a band that produces some of the most unique records ever to be released. At worst, they’re polarizing, and definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea — not even the majority’s — but they don’t have to be nor should they aspire for anything of the sort. Being in an underground outlet requires a certain level of resiliency in knowing that the music put out unto that scene so often strays from pop psychology that the individual will never, ever be the tremendous hit that other projects have been. Radiohead may very well be the one outstanding exception to the rule, but even then, it’s all hinging on “Creep” that they’d established a huge audience and really kind-of introduced people to the world of rock experimentation.
In that is the beauty of Counterfeit i — there’s truly nothing keeping Allen from releasing the music that he wants to make right off of the top of his head, from his gut, without anyone ever stopping him. He is the type of artist that truly, truly does what he does purely as an artistic conveyance of his own passions, and because of that, for those that dare to “get” the underground scene, his work goes unmatched. I, as a reviewer, typically issue scores out of 5 to the EPs and LPs that I listen to but find it inappropriate to do so here as Counterfeit i strays so far from the beaten path in Still (Vol. II) that it’s tough to even stomach pigeonholing the project into a specific rated set. Instead, it shall remain unrated because this type of experimentation is really up to each individual listener to decide whether they like it or not. It’s just that polarizing, but remember when going in for a listen or two of the band’s work that it was all done out of heart, and respect that no matter what.
Like what you hear? Check out Counterfeit i’s Twitter, Facebook, and Bandcamp pages to keep up with all of the latest and maybe even buy a few tunes! To keep up with all of the latest reviews, interviews, and more, follow me on Twitter!