Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gabriel Mintz on Fin Records

Is it so crazy that someone paid two million for a painting of Bea Arthur topless or a shark in formaldehyde, or Campbell's soup cans for that matter? It’s not so much about the object itself, you’re buying into the story behind the work, the artist’s personality, and aligning yourself with all the other people who think it matters. The same goes for a good seven inch (thankfully with a different price point), like this one from Seattle’s Gabriel Mintz who on the reverse side of this sleeve described recording each track in a basement in Maryland one winter. In this brief liner note you really get a sense of where he’s coming from and his general approach to music. Along with Fin’s attention to detail and historically finding interesting artists I was already getting a sense of this record and ready for wherever Gabriel was going.

A-Side’s “Western Days” - There’s something about Gabriel’s fragile, high register vocal that walks a fine line between genders….he isn’t even singing in falsetto, but more of a freak folk Devendra Banhart style that even reminds me of Jimmy Scott’s androgynous sound. It's incredibly unique and stands out immediately, driving the track’s personal intimacy. He recorded it as close as possible, right against the mic and is accompanied by an acoustic and a subtle mix of percussion. Lots of delicate experimentation takes this otherwise solo acoustic song into a new place especially when backed up against that inherent silence. The hushed confined space eventually blows up with more layers of subtlety, phasered synth warbled wash rising and fading in the distance and separated shakers defining a massive sense of space, all in service of that compelling vocal.

"Smunk” on the B-Side side has the feel of hitting on that perfect weird loop or guitar sound and expanding on it over a number of days. I end up respecting him even more after this venture into bizarre, shiny super-pop. It’s the sound of an artist playing with the entire palette of ideas and sounds at his disposal. Circling eclectic melodies with a strange slight distortion and an ELO chorus piled up vocal with underused percussion elements. A bright future jazz that has a lot to do with psych and progressive rock maybe the basement version of ork pop, a Pet Sounds arrangement for a Maryland winter. Waves of grit build up on the straightforward slow rhythms with a haze and laid back feel that shows it’s choppy cut and paste cards at the end of this. It's human but transcended somehow.

Pick this up on Fin Records. **Insider info, Gabriel has a full length coming out later this summer on Versicolor Records.

Video for Western Days, shot on 8mm film because that imperfect record is better than anything else.

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