Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ugly Husbands – The Faith of the Family [Roll Over Rover]/Warm Climate – Edible Homes [Stunned]

I like it when people start crossing the line between “song-based” music and experimental stuff, especially when I get to hear it on tape. Being the ever blessed soul that I am, I have two very different but very good tapes that fit that description.
First of all, this Ugly Husbands tape comes in a book. I know that has been done before, but a tape-in-book has never made it to my hands before so I’m fucking impressed. Lucky for me the music is pretty sweet so it won’t just be a novelty item to show friends. UH is a project of Stewart Adams, one of the heads of Roll Over Rover along with Sean McCann and Dave McPeters. Through its 16 tracks The Faith of the Family flirts with lo-fi folk/pop as well as weird sound collage and warm drone stuff, and is often at its best when its synthesizing the two. “Pee-chee” is a couple of acoustic guitars plucked and strummed against radiating keyboard or organ and a bit of feedback. “The Daily Record of C.J. Whitman” by contrast is an uptempo number with lyrics, slashing electric guitar, live drums and a little steel guitar as well. “Mr. Tower’s Dead Trophy” returns to the fingerpicked acoustic guitar and lap steel, adding voice and a few UFO synth parts making their way in. “Spotswood Rice” is a minute long interlude of static and keyboard loops leading into “Off-Hand with Alwyn” the longest song at 9 minutes and one of the best as well. It works with the same palette as the songs before it, but Adams’s vocals are more surefooted and it features a lovely melody (well that’s pretty symptomatic of the tape as a whole.) The song stretches along so effortlessly that I hardly notice it’s a good deal longer than the total of the 4 songs that came before it. Definitely shows strength of songwriting. “Red Hot Hot Doggies” features lonesome vocals adrift in toy keyboard, organ and a recording of something of ski ball arcade or something like that before fading into a movie sample I can’t identify. “Zipper” features more weirdness, this time a cartoon spring noise (boing!) and a vaguely organ grinder/carnival-esque vibe overall. “Radiola” has train whistles, a creepy dude saying “Hey mysterious traveler” and then a really cool tapefucked piece of music. With “The Graves at Counselors” Adams moves back towards the song-like realm with spacey keyboard, echoing guitar and maybe some piano? It all blends to a nice, pulsing mush. “Lay Your Hands on Me” recalls the earlier songs somewhat but is a tad more strung out and has a good dose of fuzz applied/smeared across its face. “The Blob” is more sound collage leading into “The Great County Fair” and “Starved by Ulysses” which is the best back to back match-up on here. The former reminds me some of the Golden Hours tape that came out Not Not Fun forever ago, a cheap, warbly organ and vocal duet with a certain stiltedness that really adds to the flavor. A well-place accordion near the end really sells the track. “Starved by Ulysses” is a pretty great song as well, perhaps the best of the tape. It has a fantastic lilt and the elements all achieve a pretty perfect unity including a great distorted accordion outro. The guitar in “Sleepwalker” drifts over a field recording of croaking frogs and the title track closes the album. Adams ditches the guitar for multiple layers of warbling organ and it’s a real nice shift bringing the tape to a lovely endpoint. I really love that this thing was recorded to 4-track cause it imbues the album with such a presence of warmth and blissfulness. At times the songs can sound a bit same-y, but it’s pretty damn good for a debut, and in a way the similarity of a lot of the songs creates a unified effect more like a drone tape. Worth checking out.
Warm Climate is a project by LA-based Seth Kasselman. The first song “Lost Teeth/Organ Donor” is the one I keep spinning and it’s a good one to put up front cause it breaks down any expectations right away. The tape kicks off with straight ahead Bowie worship with a twisted, plaintive glam ballad before sliding into an unsettling keyboard interlude that seriously reminds me of the piece of music from the scene where Cillian Murphy goes nuts and starts killing people in 28 Days Later. That little keyboard part is my favorite detail of the tape, I wish it wasn’t so fleeting but there’s no time cause Kasselman jumps right into a sixties rave-up jam with go-go ghost dancers and all. Downright brilliant track. This leads to the “Organ Donor” portion I guess cause there’s a whole cavernous mess of pipe organ that surprisingly really grinds on you as well as being a bit soothing. A great looped melody emerges and it’s a fantastic sight to behold until Kasselman starts fiddling with the radio dial as it spews bits of speech and static. “Cave In” has a bunch of jangling whatsits and it almost feels like someone accidentally dubbed in a world music tape for minute. Weird sorts of drones creep in and it might be groovy if it weren’t so damn creepy. Free drumming, seasick groans and more pipe organ appear out of nowhere and the track turns into a haunted pirate ship/jazz club. “Edible Homes and Gardens/Synth Pads for Homeless” brings back vocals but this time it’s over a distorted drum machine and hollow, sustained vibraphone tones. The second part of the track switches gears dramatically into a soft lull of acoustic guitar, puttering synth beboopery before laying on the synth strings along with spliced samples. A drum machine lurches forth steeped in incredibly saturated fuzz and the tape takes on a Portishead/Burial type feel. The anguished samples (distressed people saying things spliced beyond recognition) are a nice contrast to the prettiness of the keyboards. “Devine Souffle & The Southern Approach” starts with vocals singing over drums for nearly a minute before the “full band” comes in. It’s a great midtempo track, and it reminds me a little bit of early/mid 90s British stuff like a more chilled out Manic Street Preachers, maybe? “Motion Picks Glaze” by contrast is an acoustic guitar led ballad with slowly spinning warble in the background. “Gross Polluter” finishes off the tape with a more maximalist approach some vaguely tribal drums and singing, fragments of horns and vocals. An epileptic clarinet gets things going before everything drops out leaving some strange garbled tape sounds. Clarinet returns in fiery free jazz form joined by rumbling free percussion. I’m glad Warm Climate, along with crews like Wasteland Jazz Unit and Helhesten, is sharing the clarinet’s violent side with the world cause it’s a damn cool instrument and doesn’t get a lot of credit. The record drifts on manipulated chimes to its close. I can’t think of anyone else doing stuff like this and doing a good job of it. Glam revivalism has a tendency to kinda blow but Kasselman takes the influence and makes it his own, covering staggering amounts of terrain with his songwriting. A ride worth taking over and over.
The Ugly Husbands tape is down to the last copies of an edition of 50 and Warm Climate is sadly but expectedly sold out at Stunned, though its an edition of 120 so check around at distros, one is bound to turn up. By the way, this is just another instance to add to the list of Stunned Records introducing me to a brilliant artist I had no idea existed. I feel like sending them a thank you note every time I hear one of their tapes.

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