Monday, June 05, 2006

Quiet Countries

No One Makes A Sound
I was only familiar with Leb Borgerson from the short lived band Laserhawk. I think they broke up shortly before or after I split Stumptown. Quiet Countries is a quantum leap in a separate direction from his previous band. The band is essentially a one-man band with Leb at the helm. Quiet Countries’ music reminds me of a late era beat-centric version of the British band Hood. The sound is a mix of glitchy electronics, wrecked beats, looped guitars and acoustic instrumentation.

The artwork on the CD features the great photos by Jason Quigley of a run down mausoleum. The photos have an odd combination of solemnity and worn out tackiness. The photographs are a perfect match to the music. The music is a perfect mismatch of ruined beats, gorgeous instrumentation, and voice along with sorrow and humor.

The funniest moment on the disc is the second track “The Message.” It is not a cover of the ground breaking rap song. It is simply a phone message that somehow found its way on to Leb’s answering machine. The track features a strungout-sounding elderly woman talking about her daughter or granddaughter. She says in a slurred drawl, “She’s young though….She’s 18…. She ain’t going nowhere to party, she ain’t going nowhere in the clubs. She sure ain’t going nowhere.” The message ends with the old lady stating that she is “Burned out.” What starts out as just a funny message left by mistake by a woman with clearly her own substance abuse problems, becomes more profound and sad with each listen.

“A Wicked World” starts off with a simple beat, then a gentle acoustic guitar, and then it morphs into an electric guitar. The song is then joined by Leb’s great voice. As the song builds, a drum kit and xylophone joins the mix. The song has a great chorus, “Throw yourself to me, Know you can, Know You can, Untie my tongue to speak, a wicked world, a wicked world.” The lush instrumentation builds and swells like an ocean swallowing a drowning person. The song ends with the strains of gorgeous strings.

The best track off the album is the song “Variation on a Letter.” It starts with Leb singing against a looped guitar and the thud of a drum machine. The chorus of the song is what kills me. “We won’t escape life alive,” a fairly obvious observation, is altered by the threatening next line, “Don’t try, don’t you dare try.” The song at this point slows down as he wails over heavily delayed guitar lines, before brittle beats join the mix. The song ends in a sonic cyclone.
The quality overall is great over much of this expansive disc. After many repeated listens I am still discovering gems hidden in deep dark crevices of this album. There is a lot of music to absorb in one sitting. The album benefits greatly from many repeated listens. (Lucky Madison) (Dan Cohoon)

Murder Mystery

S/T (E.P.)
It was bound to happen. After five or six years of 50 million bands raping the dead and bloated corpses of Joy Division and Gang of Four, it was time for the vultures to move on. It became even clearer once Gang of Four started cannibalizing its own corpse that it was time to find some fresher meat. The fresher meat I speak of is the work of the early 1990’s holy trinity of Sebadoh, Pavement and Polvo.

The Detroit band Murder Mystery (they take their rather clunky name from a Velvet Underground song), have been gladly engorging themselves on the sounds of the halcyon days of the early 1990’s. They have taken those influences to produce a quite pleasing mix. Their music is pretty simple and direct, much like the music of that earlier era. There is no 21st century digital fuckery to be found on this disc, which is quite refreshing. It was recorded by Robert Blum Detroit Sounds Studios.

The one thing that is missing from this homage is the genuine angst of the original artists. The biggest crisis of the disc is that the singer, Adam Leroy, hopes to catch a ride in the song “Going to the Store.” The music itself is great (except maybe for the silly break down in the song). The only other complaint on an otherwise enjoyable disc is that the drummer, Jean-Phillipe Saulneir, hits his cymbals way too much. It might just be a matter of it being too high in the mix or my own fucked up personal taste.

I am sure that Murder Mystery would be a blast to see live. Their motto is “Jamming Indy Rock,” which is quite charming. This band shows a ton of promise. Their early 1990’s revivalism is pretty much fucking spot on. With a little work on more personal songwriting and attempt to find their own individual sound (not that they can’t borrow/ steal from others), I see a possibility that in the future Murder Mystery can make truly great music. This disc is not a bad start.
Detroit Sounds Records) (Dan Cohoon)