Monday, April 29, 2013

Clawhammer on Wee Rock Records

I can appreciate a band that want's to take a chance conceptually and literally cut their own path. Clawhammer is combining an bluegrass traditional sound of the back porch with contemporary live loops and sampling, a lot like England's Tunng. But instead of just using an organic approach to heavy electronic glitch, Clawhammer seems to be going all the way back to a classic aesthetic and style of instrumentation that then gets manipulated electronically live. It's a truly weird mix that wouldn't come out any other way than on a regional DIY label like Missouri's Wee Rock Records.

A-Side "I Think I Heard A Sound" begins with a lonesome banjo plucking sound, a far off tambouine and a live break beat with layered female breathy vocals from Chelsea and Lisa. At first it seem like they could be talking about something that goes bump in the night but the line "I just know you're coming back" doesn't seem exactly comforting. Like the Murder or Child Ballads from medieval Europe, this four piece is putting a modern spin on content as well as the result which is a nod to the craft and nostalgia of their part of the world and the modern ways we're after the same result today with standup rolling bass line
and peaking distorted organ solo's that climb into the upper reaches of the needle. A fittingly demented turn for the otherwise clean weirdness. A bastard child of Soul Coughing, catchy pumping beats and bowler hats with bite marks for a Clockwork Orange southern skids feel. I'm thinking The Slow Poisoner has a couple of bedfellows out there in the Show-Me state.

On B-Side's "Hell" you really warm up to this street dub and banjo sound, there's a fine line where this could turn into the judgement night soundtrack but they pull off what could be overly trendy. The clean production and thumping bass are the groove foundation for lines like "Baby in the hole in the ground". The expectation of where you think this might be going another element to their style of this nightmare future hillbilly sound. Not taking the metal b movie road with moonshine burning backwoods rednecks, this goes even further back and then introduces contemporary sounds in straightforward ways and keeping those traditional elements at the core of this. I would think a band would be content putting something this idiosyncratic out in the world and then calling it a day, but this is probably just the beginning.

Pick this up on black vinyl from Wee Rock Records, this is their 86th release(!!!!!).

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