Saturday, September 26, 2009

Brian Grainger/German Shepherd/Millipede/Moth – Traveling [Sunrise Acoustics/Imperfect Music]

Traveling is a four-way split, as you noticed in the title, governed by three rules. First, “all songs must adhere to theme” the theme being traveling. Second, “each artist gets 15 minutes.” Lastly, “each artist gets approximately 50 words” for an accompanying written piece. No reason for these rules is given but there we are.
South Carolina’s Brian Grainger takes the first 15 minute segment with two tracks. Some of Grainger’s written piece sums up the vibe of “Galivants Ferry” pretty well: “The warm humidity of the rusted swamp floor made it seem like time was passing slower.” I know that’s kind of cheating because I’m supposed to be reviewing it, he already nailed it so what’s the point in trying. The piece has a drone flavor, but it’s very melodic and cinematic in addition to being texturally complex. The piece flows effortlessly; some elements gliding, some shuffling along but all of them in sync. “Swamp Bike at Dusk” fills out the second half of Grainger’s allotted timeframe. This piece continues the aesthetic but reveals itself much slower and more dynamically. Grainger creates a rockier sonic field with this piece but beautiful, absolutely soaring waves of sound poke through and eventually wrestle away control, letting the piece blissfully slip away. I’ve never heard of Mr. Grainger before this but based on his work here he is an incredibly talented sculptor of sound.
Milwaukee’s German Shepherd fills the next 15 minutes with three guitar-based pieces. “Returned Effects” is comprised of a number of layers of guitar. It’s a hazy, gentle piece of solo guitar, building melodies rather than spreading on sustained tones. “Vasa” is a more pulsing drone-oriented work, with little looped melodies coming in and out. The last piece, “Imaginary Bavaria,” continues where “Vasa” leaves off, a short looped melody pushes the piece along while textural layers are brushed on with guitar. I like the way the piece winds down with a repeated/looped arpeggio and harmonic combo.
Chattanooga’s Millipede’s 15 minutes changes things rather drastically. The first half hour was more or less mellow guitar ruminations while the first Millipede jam “Batcave” is a thrashing, half-formed rock song of guitar, cymbal and effects. A lot looser and more frantic than anything that came before it. “Milky Way” has a fair amount of static-y distortion but a placid soul. A fantastic, ever growing melody shines through the fuzz making it another great guitar-focused track. “Ocean Hunter” is rougher, plunging into more distorted waters and bringing the cymbal back for another battering. What I love about the piece though are these splinters of melody that are intercut with the crashing waves of distortion. Millipede’s final piece “Family Vacation When I was 17” is a strange concoction of guitar, piano, effects loops and I’m guessing the “old cassette tape scraps” listed in the booklet. The track navigates though places of relative calm and explosions of noise. Well done set of songs.
Chicago’s Moth is the final entry and opts for a single 14+ minute track (though a splicing of numerous subsections.) “Home (Vocal)/LAX/Schiphol/Touchdown at Maya Maya/Congo Girl St. John/Milwaukee/Home (Guitar)” begins with a prayer and then jumps into a short lacerating blast of noise. Then switches gears with a guitar/voice song. Then it’s back into a spoken interlude about sleeping better in St. John’s. Afterwards there’s a cool jam with bass and electric tabla machine. A simple groove but a rollicking one with tinny guitarwork laid over top. The “Milwaukee” section is a weirdo country tune. The last part is a big, burly fuzz guitar outro. Moth certainly gets a gold star for the most eclectic entry and most literal adherence to the theme.
Overall, it’s a well put together collection. Coherently incorporates each artist’s styles without sounding samey. The CD-r is packaged like a proper CD, jewel case, booklet and the whole 9 which is cool to see in lieu of the standard slip case. The first edition is limited to 100. As a tapehead I can’t help but suggest a second edition on double cassette would be real nice for the album, but I’m always trying to get everyone to put out tapes so it is best to just ignore me. Still available.

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