Friday, April 1, 2011
Michael Beach, A Horse, on Spectacular Commodity and Twin Lakes Records
Michael Beach spent some years in Australia, before ending up in back in the US in San Francisco to finally last year recording this single in Portland. These two haunting tracks have a lot to do with that scale of universal experience in the tradition of classic songwriting.
With nothing more than a lone electric guitar on the A-Side, with 'A Horse' he's creating an amazing song melody for this minimal riff. The narrative lyric itself is dense with imagery and his delivery is Jason Molina expressive within a single verse. There's no chorus. There's nothing obvious to hold on to....it's expert solo storytelling, just abstract enough to be relate-able, consisting of the bare minimum while being accessible...I always think it takes the most talented artists to get away with these themes without sounding at all like trying...more like the traveling musician passing this story down.
In that tradition of the Sandwitches or Bill Callahan combined with a blue collar, country leaning of Townes Van Zandt. The songs come from drifting...combining a huge amount of experience and distilling it down to a single side of a 45. This song in particular could be expanded into a never-ending 40 verse epic track, and that would be perfectly fine...and the thing is I don't hear much about a horse here at all. But why would he be so literal...a real songwriters artist. A hint of drums punctuates the strumming for a single measure, but otherwise it's so quiet, the vocals rising and fading back to match the guitar... effortless. You're left with a Will Oldham feeling of voyeuristically experiencing that distant melancholy all over again.
The B-Side, 'The Exhilaration Rise' truly tests his songwriting with a single chord strummed out changing just for an instant every so often, usually giving another example of that high. There's more of an edge to his delivery on this one and it's got the Velvet Underground written all over it. The live open ,room guitar quality and lack of changes to eventually speeding up past playability... rising itself into exhilaration. It's raw and the melody is classic, again, with this sort of folk feel, but the inevitable breakdown is unnerving, all of a sudden you take off with this out of control rhythm that has to go off the tracks. Is it some kind of warning about the rise? There's always another peak and it's going to lead to the inevitable self destruction...of this track at least.
A gifted songwriter and impressive single, a monumental taste of Michael's talents that just barely scratches the surface, but it will do for now.
Two labels came together to make this single happen, Twin Lakes and Spectacular Commodity Records that should tell you something of the believers Michael leaves in his wake.
I like their download card code most of all. I'm not going to give it away but it's a nice gesture.
Get it from the Twin Lakes order page, after you go sample Michael's bandcamp tracks.