Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Michael Wohl-Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar

This is the sorta album you listen to alone, with a bottle of booze and the stillness of the night to keep you company. Not because it's the sort of misanthropic swill I love so much, but 'cause it's actually worth paying attention to. Occasionally I like to rant about how no one truly listens to music anymore (read my polemic about the last Beach House LP for more info on that front), but instead just goes for a given sound. They then download any and every example of said sound-as imparted to them through SoundCloud or LastFM or whatever website you use to steal music and scam on girls or boys-without ever hearing that noise blurbing outta yr speakers for something other than another example of whatever Pitchfork told you is good shit this week.

Which of course I'm guilty of, so fuck off. The point is that these eight meandering, rambling tunes are meant to be heard. Which is to say, if you give them a cursory listen, everything will sound the same. That's sort of the point, with any band or musician I can think of, from Arvo Part to Lou Reed's best. I couldn't begin to dissect this cassette tape's worth of long-time-rambling blues musicologically, but I'll give you some reasons your equally musically-illiterate ass should like it:
1) There's music for every mood, for every time of day, on here, and Wohl's always been good at writing songs to the tune of Old Man Time, that is to say, the witching hour when shit's weird, there ain't many people around, and you can only focus on one or two things. One of those should be "Poor Boy Long Way from Home Blues," which manages to be complex without ever being boring (if you don't understand that statement, go listen to any Led Zeppelin LP and ask yourself if you felt a single, solitary organic emotion the whole time except sheer disgust at any and all forms of arrogance and misogyny. If you did, you're either 1)a bigger crank and misanthrope than I am, or 2) a lunatic, so get back to listening to this tape!).

2) The "come for the nighttime melancholia, stay for the morning after effect": As best displayed on "Rainin' Sideways". While I'm a cranky jerkoff on the best of days and far worse typically, Wohl's plucking style has forced even me to consider that there may in fact be rays of sunshine poking through the incipient autumnal gloom. Even more impressively, he conveys this plucky mood without words: the best instrumentalists say more without speaking than most singers can get across their whole career.

3) This is just good Americana, kiddies. "Americana" is a loaded term, given that it can include everything from Abner Jay to, well, this.* Americana is also a dying genre, these days: for the most part, assholes buy collections like the Anthology of American Folk Music out of some consumerist sense of obligation ("ugghh my RECORD COLLECTION isn't COMPLETE without this ugghhh) than 'cause they actually wanna hear weird shit from the American backwoods ca. 1920. Well, I happen to dig all that weird caterwaulin', and this dood (Wohl, that is) is one of the only people trying to add something new to the genre (expansive as it is). "Long After We Are Dead" is a fucking great guitar piece, which also strikes a uniquely American chord**: this is music only statiunitese***, white or black, could make, and which we apparently are still decent at playing despite all the dogshit we've been spewing out onto the music scene since Skip James died and Lou Reed, god rest his soul, got clean.

But don't take my word for it, go listen to it, then buy a copy of the tapes before you can't, sucker! Physical copies of the tape come with sweet quotes from revered old American heroes such as John Fahey and Barbeque Bob, while also being way cooler than the mp3 files you're streaming through bandcamp. Party on, Blind Willie McTell; party on, Didier Hebert.

*Truth be told, I love "I'm A Good 'Ole Rebel," moral qualms aside. If any of you want to wade into the historical-ethical-political quicksand on this one, you're welcome to try. Just email me.
**All due respect to denizens of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada for equating "American" with "music produced in the nation-state of the U.S.A."
***Further deepening the waters of political correct bullshit, I'm using this term because English doesn't have an apposite term to denote people and things from the U.S. as opposed to the rest of the Western Hemisphere.