david grubbs – a guess at the riddle

oooo. i feel like i’ve dealt a blow to the concept. it’s not that i have not been listening to music. it’s that they haven’t been complete entities; songs only; random. i need to extricate my mind from such randomness for a lot of reasons.

the least of which being this endeavour. there’s still so much to go, though i am pretty close to half-way. more things add to the collection as days and weeks go by, but it will never be enough to not finish (finality seems such an odd concept in relation to music).

i think this is another explanation for why i have departed from pattern here. i’ve found myself thinking more about philosophical matters – musical and otherwise – but this has left less time to commit to listening to entire albums every night. it’s a discovery that i can’t actually do both; dissipate my attention.

and so it is tonight, david grubbs doing his own thing. he’s worked mostly, amongst my collection, with will oldham, though his name and contributions appear in far more places.

with this in mind, i hear two vocal characters in his own voice that, until you listen to his own creations, you would never otherwise know – andrew bird and the dudes from they might be giants. oh, and a little bit of kermit de frog. please don’t think i mean this to disparage him.

what is much clearer is his guitar style. i defy anyone to dislike it. it’s a less sugary version of the work done in sea & cake. it tells story on its own, without being in the least bit excessive or complicated. there are some quite left-field moments buried in the reliability of his singing and playing, notably on a song like you’ll never tame me, where electronic sounds provide the setting behind piano, rather than other more traditional options.

a more memorable song here is hurricane season. its strength flows from the central place given during its first phase to the piano, connected to the driving drum line, resulting in something verging on jazz. this turns to string-based noise and a final electronic buzz. it largely works as an aural descriptor of its topic, as best i can tell. first, direct vocal story is told, then the sounds are allowed to draw the listener in further.

in the end, i am not sure where i went with david. i think my preference remains for the handful of purely instrumental moments on the album, particularly the closer, coda (breathing). it reaches into the realms of sounds that have the capacity to carry emotion on their own.

and as long as i keep (re)discovering these moments in these pieces of plastic, it has all been worth it.


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