Indie Weirdo Round-Up (Capsule Reviews)
Central Market – Tyondai Braxton (Warp)
Give a post-rocker an inch (like, say, the Wordless Music Orchestra, who accompany Battles leader Tyondai Braxton on Central Market) and he’ll take a mile (like, oh, 10-minute genius symphonic blow-outs like “Platinum Rows”). On the latter tune, Braxton—the son of legendary free jazz saxophonist Anthony—finds a middle ground between the playful, Stravinskyian terrain of Frank Zappa and the grand compositional self-destruction of Dirty Projecters (see: the epic choir that occasionally jerks into spastic life). Elsewhere, it leans towards nearly pastoral sketches, like the kazoo-touched “The Duck and the Butcher” (which, to be fair, also has a bit of the old winged monkeys vocals from the Battles mini-hit, “Atlas,” buried in it, as well as an impressionistic guitar finale). On the album’s second song, “Uffe’s Woodshop,” Braxton goes over top and stays there—over the rainbow, as it were—and all that glitters is beyond.
20009 – Drakkar Sauna (Marriage Records)
Neither concept LP nor soundtrack, but an accompanying disc for a sci-fi novel written in the form of a history, bandmember Wallace Cochran’s The Moon For Its Citizens, Drakkar Sauna’s 20009 is a simple 14-song disc of space-folk. Despite its lunar subject matter, much of the music is pure Earthbound jauntiness (like the piano-driven “What A Grateful Position This Island Assumes”). The combination of nostalgia with future shock succeeds surprisingly well. “Nobody who was born after the 21st century began could possibly understand what the 20th century was like,” they sing as organs start to blast off. “The stars were all much closer in the sky.” Droned vocal intonations like “The Heaven of the Moon is So Subtle It Cannot Be Seen” present a nice new version of what the future might sound like.
Frank Fairfield – Frank Fairfield (Tompkins Square)
Frank Fairfield is the newest in a long chain of traditionalists, from the New Lost City Ramblers and the denizens of Izzy Young’s Folklore Center in Greenwich Village up through new age revivalists, like Jack Rose. Like others, Fairfield promises the authentic Appalachian musical experience, and—in the school of banjo pickers like Bascom Lamar Lunsford and Clarence Ashley—does a right admirable job of it. The 11 traditional songs of his self-titled debut are in the raw mountain vibe, and certainly sounds authentic, whatever that means anymore. Fairfield plays fiddle, too, accompanying himself on warbling ballads like “The Dying Cowboy.” Totally great, though it poses plenty of existential questions about the notion of tradition. If one needs to go so far out of his way to preserve it, then does a tree play a banjo in the forest on an indie label? But, shit, “Fair Margaret and Sweet William” is pretty: a new version of what the past might sound like.