Friday, August 9, 2013

Love Chants on Quemada Records

I’ll admit that I’ve been obsessed with geography’s affect on music lately. But maybe it has to do with these bands consistently destroying those preconceived ideas about a region and this Love Chants self titled full length on Quemada is a perfect example. Since when did Australia move to the center of minimal, transcendental psych?
Thanks to an earlier Quemada release from Mad Nanna, I’m familiar with one of the artists, Michael Zulicki, who’s on guitar in this loose collective of musicians with ties in a number of projects; Anthony Guerra from Broken Hands is on guitar and vocals while Matthew Earle plays drums on this recording when he’s not playing for XnobbqX and Stasis Duo. It’s a psychically channeled performance from all three players that has as much to do with getting in the right state of mind as the literal melodies in the grooves. Where ever it ends up being created is secondary, the headspace of the artists and listeners is essential in this raw expression.

“I Won’t Run” begins with Anthony Guerra in his deep baritone entitling the album and a slow metallic rumbling of percussion smatters in, hinting at the disjointed, dreamlike beginning to the proceedings. The electric is high and equally contemplative but this percussion is out there on it's own in jazz fill jumps and starts. They continuously seem to keep slowing back down to get back in line, like a wind chime fluttering away on the porch, driven by chaos. The track - the album are on their own path with it’s own unnatural logic. It’s the middle of the night and every corner must be explored, no matter how long it’s going to take.
The sound can be thick, molasses, crawling at a blackout pace. Anthony’s vocal emerges from the cloud of heavy reverb with no recognizable content or direction. Like this instrumentation it’s standing in for an idea of a vocal. It’s representing the real human presence and it must be named or acknowledged at the very least. The strumming seems to be sticking on every note, hardly able to make it to the next sound but as it gets harder and harsher it runs right over the gates and ride cymbal taps. This stumbling rhythm is a weighty tension like a heroin lean, like crusty punks on St. Marks hovering, just off balance for hours. In the same kind of deftness Love Chants teeter, balanced between stopping at any moment or simply falling right over.
“Small Jewels” comes off a bit more optimistic with higher shinier chords in harmonic progression but the way they bring this together with the bare elements of guitar and drums must come out of having no expectations. It’s a blank slate they are going to will this track into existence. It won’t be recreated or reconsidered. It's being created right in front of you to witness this coming together in real time. Anthony’s vocal is breathy, floating above this subtle direction that’s nodding off again except for a harsh kick or smack to the gut with a cymbal or kick drum. The guitar’s two chord, back and forth structure is cautiously approached because its turned up into high, overdrive reaches and if they antagonize it too much its going to come after them. Poised on that edge of constant attack, Michael gently brushes this one along with a slow taming chair. Both guitars work for and against each other in a state of disconnected ideas, and on very different paths. It’s a delicate balancing act not to overpower each other; they’re after entirely different forms of anarchy.

“Untitled” on the B-Side strikes out with a solid tune of bigger changes and a rolling snare punching up this rhythm. The harmonies and distortion are blending together in a weird substitution of a brass section. In the style of Will Oldham, it’s a slow deliberation, hesitating but certain in direction. Anthony’s breathy vocals avoid stepping in front of this lumbering giant while this main rhythm is slowly teased out, seemingly drawing to a close every measure. The riffs of bending chords silenced between strums like a drunken wanderer stumbling back home on a familiar path. They know the way but it hasn't looked so off course, this isolated, grey walk, with unrehearsed moments of brief expected perfection, clearly illustrating the hard work of their process. The pieces don’t always fit, but they'll be damned if they didn't get this going at the same time in the same room, carving out this space for each other and the tune. The whole record is raw collaboration, coming together hell or high water under a cohesive roof. They examine those blemishes and arrange them into a vast sky of stars, becoming mood-altering psyche. The final track, “Skirts of Rain” starts with the Anthony quietly announcing the tape is rolling while the strumming is warmed up a bit further off in the distance and they seem to favor a country death sound here. I also hear the Mad Nanna influence; the careful, sure footed anti-rhythm steps. The amazing thing is maybe this should be a lot more distracting and hard to follow than it is, as much as they might deliberately aren’t traditionally in sync, they aren't making it maddeningly impossible to follow either. A persistence of recognition is tested, can you remember hearing the last chord before this new one picks up? The speed and feel of this hazy prescription is testing the meter, the dirge and the slow cut. A shortcut to meditation and perfect for a long day of time twisting out in the country where one day can last forever.

Pick this up from Quemada Records, custom painting from Anthony on each one.

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