Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Concern / Advance Base split 'Traditionals' on Orindal Records

When I saw that Owen was retiring the Casiotone for the Painfully Alone moniker on his last tour, I was a little worried that he might have called it quits altogether. After 13 years of touring and numerous full lengths, singles and collaborations it was enough work for a few bands, it was a sad loss, but he'd surely be forced back into the scene by one collaborator or another sooner or later. I just selfishly want to keep hearing what he's up to and catch a show now and then. The huge section of CFTPA singles would have to be enough...a mammoth memorial of different labels and discoveries in local record stores...because I have a disease of if I get into a band, I will have to keep an eye out for every single one of their seven inches.
Then I get an email from Owen letting me know about his new project Advance Base, and this split 7" with Concern, his brothers project where they cover Carter Family songs on both sides. They have to be the most famous music family beginning in the late '20s and who have the distinct honor of being one of the first bands screwed over by record companies...but you know what? No one will ever give a god damn about the Victor Talking Machine Company, but here we are listening to Owen & Friends reinterpreting these simple folksongs from The Carter Family in an entirely new way...I know which side I'm on, it's just sad there's such a price to pay for the Carter's.
Advance Base, according to the liner notes is a few collaborators: Nick Ammerman playing autoharp, Edward Crouse on piano, Jody Weinmann on bass, and Owen on among other things a 'rhythm box', which I want to imagine is just that, a special box that for some reason ended up on the recording, possibly sketched in as a temp track, and then finally elevating the cardboard square to an instrument. The same way those cheap electronics were given special attention in Casiotone...now that I think about it, it kind of goes for the whole concept of this release. Ancient, simple, unassuming songs that shouldn't otherwise be anything extraordinary and then finding a way to make it special....or to say, there are these mundane things in everyday life, they are just as important as the big ones....they might even be more so since you probably live with these more than the few times a year you're happy...or something equally as cynical and depressing.
But maybe that's because this song, "Single girl, Married girl', is a pretty insanely depressing view of a ladies future in the '20s. The song contrasts how the single girl goes shopping and wears nice things and the married woman sits by the cradle and cries? Those are actual lyrics...I guess this one was for all the single ladies in the audience...since the wives were all at home anyway with no time to go to a Carter show.
Owen and company create a simple rolling rhythm with a very unrock beat, just a downstroke of the autoharp and bass, don't make anything too fancy, don't stray far from that melancholy. The whole band singing in a simple harmony over the solid see-saw rhythm. There's barely a hint of Owen's vocal, but the layered combination of back of the room mic'd piano and electric piano/organ sound is unmistakably CFTPA. It's a huge sound that takes an organic melody and hints at the percussion happening underneath, it comes off as an early demo setting in a primitive Casio, and not just because it's coming from Owen.
The B-Side, from his brother Gordon and his project, Concern is a track called, "The Wandering Boy", which is actually a kind of sweet sounding melody in spite of the fact we're presented with a somewhat low quality recording of warbled beyond belief lyrics, that go between out of reach angelic choir to gurgling robot, and which really shouldn't sound somewhat comforting coming out of a talkbox...but paired with this definitively church organ, it ends up like a degraded reel to reel of a lost sect's hymn. It's not something to be afraid of. Sure, you don't understand it, but it isn't going to hurt you....maybe being so removed from the original source it's passed into it's own unique sound. Extremely long, it might be somewhat slowed down on top of the lo-fi nature of the recording, but that kind of experimentation is to be expected for this family affair...wait there's another connection to the Carter Family.

Get it direct from Owen's own Orindal Records

1 Single Girl, Married Girl (Advance Base) 3:27
2 The Wandering Boy (Concern) 5:13

500 copies on random colored vinyl with 320 kbps MP3 download.
Risograph covers printed by Issue Press in Grand Rapids, MI.

You can also get this single from PIAPTK who has that square 8" of Springsteen covers from both brothers!

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