Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Netherfriends - Angry East Coast on Cellar Hits Records

Pat from Cellar Hits Records let me know about his new label documenting the basement scene of Cape Cod (and soon the world) with this first 7" single from Netherfriends titled "Angry East Coast". It's a three song EP with city names for track titles because Shawn Rosenblatt embarked on a year long project where he wrote and recorded a song and performed in all 50 states. Only after I got to listening did I realize this sleeve was a stapled glossy insert magazine, and opened up to an extensive tour diary of the process. Now before you go dismissing this thing, thinking he ripped off Sufjan or something, I don't know that Sufjan ever actually intended to finish his 50 states albums, it might have just ended up being a good hook to put on a press release...or maybe he intended too at first but now with orchestra's at his disposal and a little neighborhood venue called the Brooklyn Academy of Music hosting his shows...he's obviously moved on from the states idea. But Shawn, not being one to create an easily reachable goal, decided to take a year and attempt this idea for himself. In a way, that's even more balls, I'm not trying to be the first, it's purely for me.
In the zine/sleeve he talks about being worried about wasting time, and wanting to combine playing with creating on the road...and as selfish of a pilgrimage it might seem to be, it's also admirable to put in your time out there in the unknown under the excuse of a band, make this kind of impossible circumstance and then go for it. Possibly more of a performance art project if someone doesn't slap me for calling it that. The point is, you would come back with a bunch of experiences and songs, and you would personally be better...I'm all for it.
With all that in mind I put on the A-Side track, "Philadelphia, PA" where Shawn plays everything but the drums (on this entire record) and there's a hell of a lot going on instrumentally, a hazy cloud of synth and echo guitar lead this one into a bouncy pop that I sort of relate this to Sunset Rubdown with it's ever changing epic structures, or A Faulty Chromosome's warped glitch pop, maybe just vocally. Shawn goes to that bedroom space in moments of hushed harmonies, it's recorded surprisingly crystal clear, I don't know what I was expecting, but if I was writing songs every three days, some of them might be sung into the answering machine back home....but this was a serious setup. I guess I don't know how else you would have gotten to this complicated place...he's not just setting up a one man guitar and amp, it's layered, alien sounds, all in service of a big sound. The synths and effects take this to that story narrative epic place, it sounds huge, and really I'm blown away this could be done on the road and in basically 72 hours, but that's probably what he's thinking about now too.
The B-Side takes us to the capital, "Washington, DC" where Netherfriends goes a little tropical with a high-strung timpani sounding snare from Scott Westrick, who also mixed the single, and gives this one a crazy dub groove, the high pitch echoing all over this basement of a house in DC. I like that Netherfriends builds up a rhythm like this just to abandon it, drop into a chorus of vocalizations and then pickup a completely different groove to deliver a catchy almost spoken melody over a banging stripped down kit...they got a great percussion sound on this one, but it's appearance is The Annuals, all kinds of great experimentation with sound or even the Lilys, who seemed to write this psyche-pop operatic prog stuff that I couldn't believe I could even like. The pieces made no sense, but I couldn't help but keep listening.
Shawn has that same sense of the bigger picture in each one of these...I'm having trouble believing you could write 50 songs like this in a year, or if you wouldn't have to cheat just a little with a tape recorder at a rest stop.
Finally "Rehoboth Beach, DE". There's a lot of autobiographical sounding things going on lyrically in all of these tracks, I think it's hitting me most on this one, sort of talking to a girlfriend about what he's literally going through...the couches, playing shows to a couple of people...but the way the sound is Flaming Lips blown out, it doesn't ever feel confessional, I think you can get to that weird place where it's so specific you can't relate to it anymore in a personal way...but then he's already working in that 'god damn he's talented' Bright Eyes style that's hard to relate to the everyday jerk. I think maybe that can be the stumbling block for stuff like this, it starts from an intimidating place (let alone the amount of material) and maybe it's not the coolest thing right now to put this kind of time and effort into one track, but I have to hand it to someone with this kind of work ethic.
Part of me wants to like this purely conceptually, it doesn't matter what the result is, but now that this single is going some really intersting places I sort of wish I didn't know that story because these are almost better than the mythology surrounding them. He's motivated as hell, his blogspot is a serious blackhole of random influences and unreleased tracks, I wonder if the rest of the series might appear on Cellar Hits singles?

Go 'like' Netherfriends and then check out their bandcamp for all kinds of releases from this prolific guy.

This single is on Cellar Hits Records, impressive glossy sleeve/zine and some of these are on pink swirl vinyl.

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