Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Splintercake / Foot Ox split on Folktale /Stankhouse/ Tiny Panda Records
We go from found reel to reel psyche projects from yesterday into the '90s 4-track bedrooms of Splintercake and Foot Ox. A liner note even says: All songs recorded in Bri and Teague's bedroom, both bands jammed into a tiny bedroom, hunched over, on the dressers, one in the bathroom...No, they probably recorded one at a time thanks to the magic of multiple track home recording...this might be on a cassette 4-track? More likely these days it's your standard laptop...and I can't help but love this sound....the first singles I ever really heard were of this persuasion, not only were they amazing artifacts, but every one was full of new home recording techniques to emulate.
So a split 33 1/3 EP with 6 tracks like this...I would have definitely picked this up, yesterday or today, and it's a pretty amazing document of a scene going on in AZ.
The doodle 2 color sleeve I imagine is exactly the sort of jumble of influences that make up a lot of the tracks inside, like visual samples.
The Foot Ox side starts with "Colorado Springs", a masterpiece of almost The Unicorns proportions. Mathy off-rhythms combined in an effort to force together totally unexpected percussion phrases...and they do it in spite of the self imposed restrictions. There's heavy indie guitar work in here as well....it's just a solid, slightly experimental pop track that I wonder if only can be created in that kind of completely free form environment. I get it, you don't want to dick around like this in a studio...and it's too bad, so many bands could benefit from that.
"Robert", the next one, has a really moving cello track and wavery Jeff Magnum, rapid fire vocal craftily jammed together. "Swimming in your bloody stomach." They have that catching you off guard pop and then give you a lyric about birth like that.
This runs right into "Pomegranate", literally they must have been recorded one right after another.
All of this single has that abstract, naive, childlike longing sort of raw emotional feel with a slight nasal vocal, a bit like Built to Spill's Doug Martch. But it's the ramshackle, thrown together sound I love, a random array of elements they are drawing from... an essential part of that DIY ethic that says, "That broken keyboard just might have a great melody in there..." or "The SK-1? That's as good as a guitar." (Which they actually convince me of at the end of this.)
It's all so sincere, it's immediately heartbreaking. The kind of strangers diary entry that you actually have something in common with. A chorus of voices singing together over the layers of rhythms and instrumentation slightly out of sync in the way that's impossible to fake.
There's some obligatory crazy sample keyboard meltdown madness at the end of this side which is kind of nice actually, is this the SK-1 again? Damn you can hear the talent in just this little 20 sec cheap keyboard piece.
The Splintercake side, first track, "Forever Sleeping": if I was going to start from scratch and create the perfect indie pop sound, it would have to consist of a guy and girl vocal, like Splintercake. This combination over the densely interwoven guitar and bass melody...just like the Swirlies...or Krecs or Slumberland Sound. It's the sound of a bedroom and something you have to put together with friends. Maybe that's why ultimately this sound is so familiar and why it immediately seems like home.
Then, holy shit, "Unfair" comes out in the middle with big time synth break beats and a yelling rap vocal. It's so ridiculous, but completely committed. Just the fact they go in this direction, why not? It's the kind of thing that made the Unicorns tracks so fun to listen to. Their weren't any boundaries. There's even the old school use of samples...I'm glad to hear that coming back, maybe it went overboard at the time and went out of fashion, but that idea of random snippets of dialogue etc in a song can be so great.
"Proud partner" then goes back to that layered harmonic indie...like Bunnygrunt pure american home unassuming indie rock. This one even ends with the hiss of a cassette tape rolling and the hum of a TV. A quiet intimate conversation, an unwelcome explanation bordering on heartbreak. Exactly what both sides of this single are about.
Experimental pop home recording, hearing DIY from the tiny grooves. Really it's what the most successful 7" singles are all about for me. An EP of 6 track, 2 unknown (to me) bands and catchy raw imperfect recordings of talented friends.
Perfect sound 4fr.
Go listen to samples of these tracks and get it from Folktale Records who still has the yellow vinyl pressing available. Can also be found at Stankhouse and Tiny Panda.