Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Shepherds - Bush Babies (DNT Records 7")
Finally moving on from that show which I've been talking about for way too long (thanks for the patience, by the way), this time with a 7" I've been meaning to review for a while now. Shepherds is a duo comprised of Jeremy Earl of Woods and Meneguar fame, and G. Lucas Crane of Non-Horse and the Vanishing Voice. So these guys theoretically know what they're doing.
I'd heard alot about these dudes, how it was a sort of weird melding of tape work and free jazz stuff, but to tell you the truth I was hesitant at first. Vanishing Voice isn't exactly my cup of tea see--I don't know what it is but something about that whole neo-hippie woodsy thing sort of turns me off. Probably haven't given them that fair a chance I suppose... but man, to my ears this is nothing like that material. The 7" is comprised of one track split over the two sides, and is really just one whole weird horn and drum driven slayer of a track. Not really sure who plays what, so let's focus on the sounds shall we?
The whole thing opens with these weird horn lines which I reckon are sampled and looped rather than actually played (after all, it is only two guys). The drums come in all skittery before taking on more of a thumping pulse, elastic and driving (quickly to nowhere I might add), guiding the strange interweaving horn drone created underneath. Doesn't sound that far afield from the work of Don Cherry circa Eternal Rhythm, only this time he's jamming with La Monte Young while some ex-punk drummer who discovered African approaches (come on, there's gotta be someone like that out there, right? any takers?) sits on the whole thing and let's it ride. Weird squawking blips fade in and out, riding over the mess of horniness (cheap, I know). It all sounds like a tympani player hearkening an army of philharmonic members as they tune up.
Every once in a while a group comes along that presents a truly new approach, and Shepherds is definitely one of them. These duos--Blues Control or Binges--have an element of control in their minimalist personnel listings which allows for a serious amount of communication between the two. It never once sounds like the duo is trying to hold the sound together. They are clearly always in control, and the music is more confident for it.
Take the quick turn into more ambient territory at the end of side one, the drums thundering into the distance as it fades out. Side two fades back in, this time rebuilding the whole thing from where it left off as organ swells fade in and out and weird electronic bat cries bounce off the walls. It's drone, I guess, but this is hardly the dark work that so many bands but out. This is celebratory and tribal stuff. Maybe it's the way the drums hold it all together, giving it drive in much the same way that Dead C might use them. With a beat this sure, anything can happen underneath.
As the trumpet lines, which may be samples or merely prerecorded (if so, more power to them--the work is quite nice), weave back into the mix, riding high above the thick tangle of lines beneath, I really can't help but think of Bitches Brew or something similar, though in actuality it's nothing like that. Still, the lonely melancholy of the horn line tears across the undergrowth, a kind of blue light above the cavern. It's beautiful stuff, full of excitement and willing to inhabit whichever space or mood it leads itself into. The tape work elaborately fades the piece out as piece after piece is removed until it's just piano and trumpet, drumless, and finally the last tinklings of the old ivories. A beauty, and a swell package to boot.