Sunday, August 27, 2006

Miserablism, Canadian Elements, Acid-Damaged Chinoiserie, Time-Warp Face-Melting, and Italian Cantata Abuse

I’m breaking with the anachronic approach normally followed here. As Sam Beckett said, "No one really knows what an ostrich sees in the sand," or something like that. Anyway, here’s some new, recent and forthcoming stuff. All very good, go buy it.

Fading Trails is the new one by Jason Molina and Magnolia Electric Co. Parts of it were recorded by Steve Albini, if you care about stuff like that. But Molina is a master of miserablism, and even more saturated with despair is Molina’s new solo vinyl-only release Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go, from which come "It’s Easier Now" and "Alone With the Owl." It’s a beautiful downer. Like Antony and the Johnsons, this stuff can just make you weep and weep, or at least think about weeping. Molina’s songs are short and to the point, skeletal at times. Here he’s whittled his language down to a bare essence, with moonlight, ocean, owls, wolves and horizons populating the songs, giving them the elemental feel of myth. There’s a bit of the melody of "It’s Easier Now" that reminds me of the Carpenters’ "Superstar."

Richard Buckner is another bleak master. His voice has the craggy wind-blown, water-eroded feel of a barren cliff. The singing reminds me of Richard Thompson a little, there are those same micro-fluctuations of pitch on any given syllable, sort of a George Jones effect, via Jay Farrar. I’ve grown to appreciate the way the drums push the songs almost past the tempo where Buckner’s vocals seem to want to keep it. These are from his latest, Meadow. If I’m not mistaken, I remember reading that the guy spent some time in Alberta, which somehow seems to explain everything. The winds sure do blow lonely out there.

The Archie Bronson Outfit explodes generic expectations pretty successfully. The pow-wow beats, the ecstatic non-verbal vocal refrains, the gritty blues slidework, the generally freaked-out feel and the sort of acid-damaged chinoiserie all make me think of Captain Beefheart. But these guys are from London, they’ve been soaking in their art-school post-punk, too.

And while we’re at it, let’s throw one in from the forthcoming Akron/Family disc. Many bands grasp and grope toward the transcendent, but few actually grab hold of the beyond. Here Akron/Family – the bearded ones, the bird-watchers, the sea-chanty backing outfit -- conjure thrift store vision quests, liberal arts satori, they shed what few inhibitions may have remained, they get their Heidegger on. "Blessing Force" travels through worlds of Dark Star-like cosmic riffage, communal group-singing catharsis, Eno-ish egg-head pure realms, free-jazz face-blasting, hocketting pygmy festivities and into dark tunneling vortexes where matter, space and time warp.

And just to clean out the plumbing, we’ll conclude with a little bit of Ennio Morricone, from the two-CD set Crime and Dissonance that came out earlier this year on Ipecac.

"It's Easier Now" - Jason Molina

"Alone With the Owl" - Jason Molina

"Mile" - Richard Buckner

"Window" - Richard Buckner

"Kink" - The Archie Bronson Outfit

"Cuckoo" - The Archie Bronson Outfit

"Blessing Force" - Akron/Family

"Ricreazone Divertita" from Cuore di Mamma - Ennio Morricone

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