Friday, May 1, 2009
Steve Gunn / Shawn McMillen - End of the City (DNT Records / Abandon Ship Records / Abaddon LP)
Hello world. It's Friday, and that means that, officially, senior project is handed in and my life no longer needs to be engulfed in John Cage. Though as far as engulfing goes that's not half bad, but having to write and hand in the 85 pages was, well, taxing, and I'm damn glad it's over... The major plus of course is that I can get back to some semblance of consistence with regard to reviewing, which is exactly what I'm going to start doing right now, as there's a shit load of stuff waiting around for the review treatment. So much actually... I'm gonna have to get to plowing through here, but I can say that soon there'll be some more Stunned reviews up for the new batch, which is, of course, just as amazing as they always are. Plus a bunch of other stuff from an endless list of amazing labels.
Figured I'd start out with this one though, as it's been sitting on the back burners for a while despite its serving much accompaniment through the dark times that were these last few months. Sent to me by Tynan over at DNT (Sean McCann and Psyched Punch reviews on the way shortly as well), the record was co-released with Abandon Ship (Time Life plus more reviews from them on the way too!) and a new label out of California called Abaddon. Anyway, the three way action is well served by these two, as each presents one side and one piece of expansive excursions.
The first side belongs to Gunn, whose done some great solo work as well as stuff with GHQ and Zac Davis along the way. This is easily the best and most complete example of his vision yet though, subtly mixing folk guitar ramblings with drone, percussion, and an almost jammy bluegrass vibe that isn't so much about drifting through space and reaching towards the cosmos as it is about slowing the pace and reaching for the cosmos (the beverage that is...). Actually naw, that's not true, this is way more lie back in the field with scotch in hand material. The whole work takes its time too, building toward a gentle intersection of lines looped over and through one another with ad eft compositional touch. Almost a Moby Grape vibe here with the guitar angles, but far less song-based and more patient. A relaxing and rambling summer hummer that'll have you reaching for the wheat grass and the weed grass all at once. Gunn definitely has a knack for sounding like no one else, and he never subscribes to standard modes of "experimental" guitar, instead appearing for more focused on perfecting his distinct sound, and it's refreshing to here an artist with such a voice further pursuing his vision.
If Gunn's side was a slow-mo stomper for the coming months, McMillen's is the incoming Winter air which, when meshed with the warmth, is sure to cause some odd weather patterns. Not strictly using guitar, McMillen (who's played with Warmer Milks) also pulls from piano, tapes, synth, and from the sounds of it some small percussion tactics to create a weird and disparate little composition that goes through a ton of zones. One moment there's a strange synth garble below some almost Chopin-style piano flourishes (though far more aimless of course...) before getting increasingly distorted with an incoming choir of both people and bird chirps. A lot of weird spaces here, none of it is too claustrophobic which keeps it eerie without slipping into cliched modes. Some of this stuff even gets a bit dream-like, as shimmering sounds and voices meld together in building toward some distant and odd realm. Really effective stuff, and a great opposition to the single-minded side of Gunn. Despite its differences though, it feels just as carefully constructed and cared for, ultimately displaying just as effective and complete a voice as the counterpart on side one.
Nice LP, two great pieces from two dudes worth keeping an eye on. If this is any indicator, Abaddon's off to a great start and DNT and Abandon Ship are already well versed in this kind of production quality. Nice work from all parties here.