Album Reviews: David Bazan, The Cairo Gang + more
David Bazan — Care
There are those moments in movies where the character stares into the abyss, wordless. The moments when the audience puts together the sum of what they know to have happened to the character and tries to surmise an ending based on the actions of the character, David Bazan’s Care is the soundtrack of that wordless stare. Relying heavily on synthesized instruments, it could be a stylistic choice or sort of the chosen instrument of disconnection, robots and artificial intelligence, wading through the programmed and coordinated, looking for connection within the steel and electricity, modern music. That said, in “Permanent Record” there is the lyric, “I store my thoughts in other people’s heads, then I question what they know.” It is a slow burn, that song, a spiraling into insanity or uncertainty, which is kind of the theme of the album. The cover of the album is Bazan (or someone) sitting at a desk, and that is sort of what happens. “Up All Night,” an ode to the insominiatic behavior of late nights, to “pace the basement,” to question life and purpose and failures with the blanket of the night sky to provide the idea of hiding from. This album is perfect for that time, driving at night, contemplating. It is the things that send us to therapy (physically or chemically), sifting through memories for clues to the collapse. Bazan’s voice is also a perfect narration to these stories.
The Cairo Gang — Untouchable
Rock and roll died with Chuck Berry. Not really, but it’s a good first sentence. The Cairo Gang is always great. Yes, there sound harks or at least hints at classicism, not in a revisionist sense, but more in tribute to form, or maybe not, because who can lay claim on what a time period sounds like and why must it normally be the Blade Runner soundtrack? So yes, this album is very soul and rock and roll based, or there is no rapping. “Broken Record” is the Lou Reed rocker. “That’s When It’s Over” manages to merge “Sweet Jane” and “Hey Joe,” or maybe not. I also hear Arthur Lee. Regardless, it’s a jam with a killer guitar solo at the end. “In the Heart of Her Heart” is a barn burner. Recorded perfectly, the guitars are crisp, the bottom pulses, it sounds wonderful coming through your stereo; you are in it, you feel the power. “Let It Gain You” is a magical voyage; ride the clouds and wave at the unicorns. “Untouchable” is a sweet glass of tea, it is a soft cool rain on a hot day, it is the leaf falling slowly to the ground, a trail of smoke from a joint as the high kicks in, beauty. There is a hint of darkness and mystery and magic, life is not all apples and oranges, but mainly this is a good time, a celebration. The Cairo Gang did not name this album to suggest that they are untouchable, however, I would use this as valid evidence in support of that claim.
RF Shannon — Jaguar Palace
I was a huge fan of Jess Williamson’s Heart Song and upon hearing that RF Shannon was basically the band on that album, I committed myself to checking their steez. Jaguar Palace is the band’s first album following last year’s excellent EP Hunting Songs. To describe this album is to summon the feeling of the second song on the album, “In The Wild Of My Mind”: “There’s a place that I go, that no one knows, in the wilds of my mind.” This album shares the dream state quality of something like Mazzy Star or Brightblack Morning Light; you find yourself listening for sounds outside of the speakers, looking out the window. “Jaguar Palace” enters like desert wind; the skies darken, the trees shift, and then the lights come on and you are in it. RF Shannon takes their time, they caress your face, and whisper in your ear; it lulls and tempts you, it maintains a pace until “Had A Revelation,” a kind of roots rocker, gives a bit of pace to the majestic ocean of the album. However, the eleven minute “Hottevilla 1” is an island unto itself, a soul number within a psychedelic hued light; it is the blues from beyond. This is a wondrous album that continues to give and reward 5 or 6 listens later. You have to wrap your head around it, live in it, but it is a cozy stay. RF Shannon are from Austin, these songs evoke the imagery of long roads and open spaces, esoteric nights and supernatural trips. Go here now.
Gregory Uhlmann — Odd Job
Gregory Uhlmann plays in the superb band Fell Runner (if you don’t know, now you know), which has more of a afro, Kuti thing going. Odd Job shows that is only one hue of the color wheel in the Uhlmann catalog. Pace and color are words of description, the album unfolds, there are moments of calm. “Odd Job” is a treatise on humanness or lack thereof. “Phone It In” is a mellow pop number, think groovy Wings, discussing the idea of moving indiscriminately friendships or relationships. Pulling from folk, classical, and other musical forms, Uhlmann and accomplanying cast (one being Fell Runner drummer Tim Carr, who also has a fantastic album, The Last Day Of Fighting, and also rips the end of “Too Much to Bear”) move through the moods and modes and modes of the album in somewhat of a slow burn, but each song is rewarding. It is a great album for reading, or cleaning your living area, or getting really stoned and staring at your phone on the table for say 40 minutes before you realized that you were supposed to write a record review, but then you smoked a bowl and forgot whilst making dinner plans, anecdotically. A beautiful album, a splendid time, oh sweet music.
Kelly Lee Owens — Kelly Lee Owens
Kelly Lee Owens released the wonderful Oleic, or that is the last release that I heard from her, but it was enough that when her self-titled album came through, I was excited and enthusiastic. Owens creates music that is like distant lightning reverberating through the sky, flashes of light, distant rumbles. There are more traditional pieces like album opener “S.O” or “Throwing Lines” that sort of establish as groove and work within that. There are pieces like “Anxi.” or “Evolution” that evoke more of dance spirit or at least mellow house. The album closer, “8,” is a dream sequence, longer meditation on a rhythmic and vocal coda that presents itself and then inverts into a similar creature. Owens understands feel and space and gives songs room to grow and expand or envelop at the right time. It gives the album atmosphere and completion, from inception to conclusion it feels like a transformation; you are transported, taken, and returned, but different than before.