under one of the ugliest covers I've seen in recent times - you should (not)
see the image on the back! - readers won't find the proverbial "album of
the year", nor "one of the most interesting discoveries of the last
few months", just a lot of very fine music.
immediately say that while "variety" would be at the top of my list
of useful words when describing this album, "coherence" would not
even chart. With (not really) surprising consequences: distracted by a clear
blue summer sky, I suddenly noticed that the album I was listening to, so
different from the one by Sick Boss I had previously listened to, was still the
Sick Boss album!
first few tracks - best specimen being track #1, which at almost 8' is the
longest here - showcase musical climates that reminded me of a few Rock In
Opposition groups: while the combination of cello and accordion reminded me of
Skeleton Crew, the presence of organ and clarinet (and cello) reminded me of
Aksaq Maboul; of course, it's entirely possible that the core members of this
line-up (names to come in a moment) have never listened to them.
things do really change, with some "pop-sounding" moments; some
"spiky" attacks from the guitar and a passion for electronic-sounding
colours made me think that US 90s "indie rock" groups on such labels
as Quarterstick and Thrill Jockey may be among the group's favourites.
have a look at "who played what". Cole
Schmidt on guitar, effects. James Meger on bass, effects. Dan Gaucher on drums,
effects. Peggy Lee on cello. JP Carter on trumpet, effects. Tyson Naylor on
synthesizer, organ, piano, accordion, effects. Jeremy Page on clarinet.
Provided I understood correctly, Schmidt, Meger, and Gaucher are
the group "core trio", Schmidt writing most of the music; the others
are not, however, merely "reading the dots". While Peggy Lee -
and JP Carter - are familiar figures by now, the memory of Meger and Naylor
performing on Ron Samworth's beautiful album Dogs Do Dream is still fresh in my
Then, there are the "guest players", but their roles -
though limited - prove to be no less important: Tony Wilson on guitar, Ted
Crosby on clarinet and bass clarinet, Debra-Jean Creelman and Molly Guildemond
on vocals, Malcom Jack on (for me, the quite mysterious) MFB-502 drum computer.
Wilson's style, so different from Schmidt's, adds colour to three tracks, while
Crosby's clarinets widen the palette. I'm afraid I've never listened to the
featured female vocalists, who I see now are quite well-known artists. Here,
they make for a more varied album.
The music on the album was carefully "built", with lots
of overdubbing, montages, and editing, something that I'm sure took a lot of
time and care. The album liner notes, presented as a kind of "semantic
labyrinth", don't make one's life easier when it comes to credits. Here's
what I understood. Recorded by Eric Mosher at the Warehouse Studios in
Vancouver, BC. Extra additional recording, editing, radical reconstructive
surgery, effects, and processing by James Meger at Slug Bait. Mixed by Sandro
Perri in Toronto. Mastered by Jesse Zubot at the Britannia Beach Bunker in BC,
Amadman starts the album with effects, loops, a bass ostinato,
percussion, a melodic line for guitars, clarinet, drums, cello, electronics, in
crescendo. Cut at 1' 44". The theme again, now sounding more
"open", then organ, clarinet, trumpet playing the melody, then
accordion. Again, a "cut", at 3' 14". Then the composition gets
wider orchestrally, with a fine crescendo from the drums. At 4' 52" the
mood changes again, with electronics in the background, "tiny
sounds", guitars, clarinet, keyboards, drums playing tempo, this is a
"slowed-down" episode that gradually grows in intensity. Fade, cut.
Bad Buddhist opens with a guitar figure, tiny percussion, then the
cello, then the whole group in ¾, guitar, trumpet, keyboards, bass
clarinet; the electric bass contributes to the creation of the mood, then it's
back to the melody, now played by organ and winds. At 2' 30" the track
goes towards a trumpet solo with fine backing by a vivacious snare and fine
cymbals, and a rich background. At 4' 18" cut, guitar arpeggio, and a fast
coda with keyboards, accordion, and clarinet.
Ruthless Waltz opens with a lazy acoustic guitar chord, then a
melody for trumpet and guitar, then cello, piano, fine cymbals. Piano and drums
come to the fore, then cello. At about 2' the mood gets more "free",
highlighting the trumpet, then at 3' 08" the whole changes to cello and
piano in rubato. In closing, it's back to the lazy acoustic guitar.
Bug Ya! (pt. 1) starts with electronics, drum computer, and
various sounds. A mid-tempo which showcases a vocal melody that reminded me of
Ruby circa Salt Peter, but the sound here is quite far from Lesley Rankine's
pungent vocality. Definitely more similar to Petra Haden performing Yuka
Honda's music. Strange mood change, it all ends "cacophonically".
They've Got Tombstones In Their Eyes starts with piano, acoustic
guitar, then a theme performed on the cello, electronics, effected cymbals,
drums playing tempo, definitely a Floyd-sounding moment, there's a guitar
played with an e-bow - or is it a plug-in? Then, the music gets "lost in
See You Out There is a strange c&w in 3/4, fine vocals, à la
Petra Haden-Yuka Honda, fine snare drum played brushes, electric bass,
arpeggiated guitar, organ with "percussion" effect, a vivacious
trumpet solo, close.
Mona starts with electric guitar playing arpeggio, then a theme
for cello, a fine accordion making the theme sound more beautiful, an agile
rhythm section. At 2' 38" cut, and on a "lunar" background, with
organ, effects, vocals, echoes, the clarinet playing single notes, we have the
rhythm section, guitar, and organ "sweeps". At 5' 45" cut, and
with the entrance of a "white noise" synth we're back to the theme
for cello and trumpet, with arpeggiated guitar.
Bug Ya! (pt. 2) fades in, with a figure for bass and drums, two
guitars, then at 1' 22" a strong rhythmic figure, then it's organ and
synth, and a close that sounds quite in a "space rock" style.
Troubled is a surprise ending if there ever was one, and even if
its presence proves to be the proverbial last blow to any hope of coherence,
well... it's a fine moment just the same. A cover of a song written and sung by
Elizabeth Powell - of course, I've never heard of either - it starts with two
vocal lines that had me check the liner notes for Ani DiFranco (she's not
featured), whose "trembling" interpretation is definitely echoed here
in the words "taste", "chasin'", and "here". Then
the song gets orchestrally richer, taking this strange, peculiar album to its
© Beppe Colli 2017
CloudsandClocks.net | Aug. 29, 2017