Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Will Simmons 'Him with his head in his hands' seven inch on Unread

Unread records does it again, with this mini EP by Will Simmons. At this point I don't think Unread can commit anything bad to vinyl. Chris has a vision that I am beginning to share, with every release I hear, it just makes more and more sense.

The liner notes say this was recorded from Nov 99- Feb 00 on gross street in Pittsburgh. I've never been to Pittsburgh, but I think I know this feeling. I'll be dammed if you can't think that a 4-track becomes an instrument. I know these songs wouldn't be the same without it. It is another presence, another layer. And I will never get sick of it. I'll never get sick of these recordings by an individual alone with a 4-track. These don't sound like the typical 4-track bad quality, they are clean, but full of feeling that you get from a familiar space.

The first side starts out with 'Happy Birthday cake for Kevin', just will singing and playing his heart out on a nylon string guitar plucking a little too hard, catching every imperfection. The lyrics frantically written down on the kitchen table paper towel, his vocals just barely finishing in time, just missing the high parts but I wouldn't have it any other way.
'One man to know' is slow layered guitars, here he starts show you the sad side, in this song about maybe going back home to see relatives, the long trip, stuck on some kind of transportation...I'm not looking forward to it. You don't make any headway, no one understands any better, and we'll do it again in a year. Your father is only one man to know.
To round it out with 'praying for Pittsburgh' he pleads with the city to listen to all of it's parts for a change, not just something new, but something that will really matter. More solemn guitar and this ends much to fast, just as I'm getting into the phantom verse two, the side is over.

This was a prescription for the winter/Christmas times blues. This was 4 tracks, six songs of Pittsburgh. I pictured anyone of my high school friends driving at top speed down the side streets in our town covered in snow, they've got winter hats on. Drop Will off to his apartment, I'm going to see my friend Matt at the pharmacy, he gets off in a few hours. He'll record far off into the night and surprise everyone the next day after work with some new tracks. He captures this kind of sadness, this starkness of winter of the boring-ness any town can be, at night, covered in snow. Walking around by yourself when you just have to get out, everyone is sleeping, preparing for the next day. Like Bill Callahan, he takes a simple melody, a very simple guitar part and works it to the point where it comes back around from boring through to hypnotic and genius.

Side two finds 'Self portrait (Him with his head in his hands) again quietly starting and stopping, and I appreciate these pauses and not trying to overwhelm the listener. It's very opposite from the last seven inch by unread in that even with this number of tracks there are spaces to appreciate. Maybe not as frantic.
First Glimpse of the day is a gastr del sol sounding instrumental with disparate guitar tracks that weave in and out missing one another to realign themselves and then change direction again to slow down, just endlessly repeatable and I kind of wish this would go on and on evolving even more.
'For Vollis Simpson' changes this seemingly predictable low-fi suicide into a marching band trombone reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens, I feel that same massive sound, and choreography.

I could see fifty albums commemorating each street, each bus stop for Will in Pittsburgh, thoroughly romanticised. It could just be the winter talking but I am happy to sad bastard it up in my lonely apartment with my cats and listen to this EP one more time.

If you like any of this, and have a record player, and a soul, go get this seven inch immediately.

#21 - will simmons : "him with his head in his hands" : seven inch : a slightly different path from his instrumental outings these six songs showcase that wills ability to sing and strum is not altogether lost. this tape label veteran puts these stark folk/pop songs onto wax. limited to only 500 in hand stamped / offset covers.

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