Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Barmy vocals with English accents

Baronic Wall - The Mind of Roses
Gift Tapes #42

Baronic Wall's The Mind of Roses is so fucking vintage I checked the calendar on my phone. Am I really still here? In the present? Or is it 1979? Baronic Wall's take on hard-edged, hypnotic synthpop would feel right snug at home on Hyped2Death's Messthetics series, which spotlights the U.K.'s D.I.Y. era of the late '70s/early '80s. An era when authenticity trumped skill, when the creative process was emphasized as much as the creative output itself, when idle spectators became willing participants.

Baronic Wall has barmy vocals with English accents (they remind me of Dan Treacy; anything that reminds me of Dan Treacy makes me warm inside). The songs have woozy, warped synthesizers and cheap-sounding percussion, and themes of tribulation and alienation. From "Those Good Men": "The place where things went wrong for them / The place where they got a sign that the world didn't want them."

The vocalist often takes a poetic/spoken-word approach; he oscillates between sounding irritated and frightened. During the song "The Former Age" it occurred to me that the synths were like an impenetrable wall and his voice was coming from the other side of this wall, and that no matter how agitated or unnerved or just downright weird he came off, he always sounded like he was comfortable in the particular space he was occupying. That he wanted to be there and nowhere else. I was simultaneously intrigued and flustered by this; I haven't felt like that in some time.

Paper plates that sag

MidLo - MidLo
Curly Cassettes #22

MidLo's self-titled opens with "Moonlight," a number consisting of pulsating bass and twinkly piano and the ethereal voice of a woman, and so that's where I thought this cassette was going: dramatic soundscapes that underscore one singer's daring vocal journey.

But I was incorrect—wonderfully incorrect. The rest of MidLo features slices of spirited American folk, tracks such as "Broomjump" and "The Next Grange Hall Dance is Saturday, Oct. 23," their fervor and fiddles so infectious listeners will be coerced into swinging their skirts and kicking up their clogs.

My favorite number is "Love," a ballad that's as spunky as it is syrupy. The piano, banjo, and fiddle all get along so nice, and the singer has this dirtied-up, slightly accented voice. Listening, I began to imagine a summer gathering, like in a backyard closed off with a chicken-wire fence to keep kids and dogs contained, and adults moving in between picnic tables with bits of corn stuck in their bottom teeth and in their hands, paper plates that sag in the middle from the weight of heavy dinners, and sitting in a plastic lawn chair a suitor singing "Love" while the object of their affection stands with their back to the suitor, flipping burgers at the grill, smiling as they contest with grease-fueled flames.

Bottoms up

Raymond Byron and the White Freighter - Raymond Byron and the White Freighter
Curly Cassettes #17

Raymond Byron (nee Raymond Raposa) has been releasing batches of psychedelic, countrified folk rock on indie labels like Asthmatic Kitty for nearly a decade now. This self-titled cassette features a pair of live numbers recorded at Mississippi Studios, a live venue in Portland, Ore.

The more captivating of the two is "Time Off For Bad Behavior," which opens with Byron stating, "This is a dance song." And I suppose it is. The electric guitar crackles, and the rhythm section swings and spins. And Byron's good ol' boy, excessively blue collar shtick is contagious. "I've been working like a regular dog," he spits. "To keep my woman and the lights and the water and the phone turned on." Then later, "I need to re-do my friendship with Jim Beam." Bottoms up ... Or something.