Friday, June 5, 2009

Steve Gunn/Shawn David McMillen – End of the City [Abaddon/Abandon Ship/DNT]

I’ve been playing this one a lot on this wobbly, crap turntable I procured from an acquaintance here. I’m wondering how the experience will change once I return home and play it on a turntable that rotates in a perfect circle. Hopefully not too much cause as is this record might just be my favorite LP from the year so far. A trifecta of labels put End of the City out—the always fantastic DNT, Abandon Ship which this is their first LP (congratz!) and Abaddon which seems to be a brand new label.
The two artists’ work compliments each others’ really well here. Their sounds are similar enough that listening to the sides back to back feels coherent but Gunn and McMillen bring totally different ideas to the table.
This is my first experience with solo material from Gunn (he’s part of the killer group GHQ) and this does not disappoint. He showers us in pleasant vibes contributing a lovely raga-lite track. A groaning organ/sitar/something loop spirals around as he tears it up on guitar. Shakers come in later and they’re a real subtle but effective addition and tablas join the ranks afterwards. It’s fairly repetitive but not boring the least in. Gunn lays down a real nice solo towards the center too. For a while its only one track of guitar but there gets to be about 3 or 4 creating little, consonant webs. A renegade sitar pops up too and the whole thing ultimately wraps with a nice bed of loops. Beautiful stuff and effortlessly good, mellow vibes, a much sunnier experience than GHQ’s bleak, harrowing (and excellent) journeys into raga-drone.
I think Gunn’s side was probably my favorite initially but I think McMillen has swung me to his side the aisle. While Gunn worked very strictly with one sound, McMillen’s side constantly moves through many rooms of sound on his side. Beginning with a junk store instrument pile-up and almost immediately giving way to an amazing, creepy piano/thumb piano duet, augmented by the occasional hollow floor tom. After electronic scribbling, the piano returns full force, barely on this side of tonal, against a chirping cricket-style electronic melody. So then there’s an amazing evensong choral bit with the angry crickets still in tact and weird field recording rumbling around. Just beautiful, eerie stuff. Air raid sirens and all kinds of shit is in here; it’s nuts. A keyboard/guitar duet grows out of the last part with some kind of spoken word/poem reading and sitar in there too. All of a sudden the crickets get groovy against a bevy of sounds until a harmonica takes the lead and piano follows suit briefly unleashing an awesome suspense movie type melody. So what next? Where else is he gonna go? The answer is a path to a vintage era Skaters thing with distorted vocals, hand drums and a jiggy spirit flute. The whole ordeal ends unassumingly with a brief jam on a guitar that has a bunch of shit stuck between its strings. Oh yeah, there’s a crow cawing in there too… The question I keep asking myself is who is this guy? Why have I not heard of him before and how did this jumble of sound collapse under its own weight? The most that I’ve found is he’s a sometimes collaborator of Warmer Milks, which I confess I’m not too keen on. But I’ll be seeking out more of this guys stuff anyway.
The LP comes in a pro-printed sleeve with excellent artwork by Mary Kidd and a full size insert. DNT’s copies are gone but it was still in print at Abandon Ship and Abaddon last I checked. Edition of 500. Recommended.


Nater said...

nice review, thanks!

Shawn has a great LP out on Thompkin's Square called "Catfish", that you should check out. It's much more "traditional" than his side of this album.

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