Sunday, December 15, 2013

Horrible Houses-Songs Written & Recorded Under the Influence of the Yellow House (2013)

 These tunes are beautiful fragments of melancholy. Like one of his heroes, John Fahey, Daniel is very good at coaxing emotional depth out of a simple series of guitar chords. Clanging off the 4-track hiss, the guitar plays off the lack of other sounds in the mix and gathers strength in the process. They'll never meet each other, but Horrible Houses and Michael Wohl should share a bill, or maybe split an EP. They're the only guys I know of making folk- and blues-based music at this late date that actually fucking matters.

Horrible Houses never fails to surprise: buy the ticket, take the ride, as the good Doctor once said. By now I've come to expect freakfolk* of some sort from this guy, but nothing he's done sounds quite like his previous releases. That's saying a lot, given that anyone who wants to sell records or push downloads can simply cut-and-paste a genre's sound onto blank tape again and again and be guaranteed attention, if not fame 'n' fortune (fancy that).

This is a collection of improv recordings done "under the influence of the Yellow House." I'm guessing that's a new kind of acid the Swedes are keeping to themselves. Hell, us Yankees and Itals probably couldn't afford it anyways, them Scandis always get the best shit with their sizeable welfare checks. Point is, I want some of what this guy's doing so I can make more interesting bad life decisions.

The first five tracks are empty. Not lifeless, but empty, the way Neil Young's Dead Man soundtrack sounds hollowed out: stripped of all the dross and over-produced horseshit that hides most bands' lack of talent or passion. Empty the way the best American folk music sounded empty. Arthur Rothstein says at some point in Boardwalk Empire that all of life's problems arise from not being able to sit still in a room. In the same spirit, most music is desperate to fill that silence and stillness. Dismissing such anxiety, Daniel turns off the drum machine and ratchets up the vocal mix on these bedroom recordings.

 Some of his previous work was quirky for the sake of being quirky: certainly more interesting than most of what washes up on my "to review" pile, but not necessarily keepers. This album is nothing if not that. Dude claims that he buried some of these records under a real-existing Yellow House 6 years ago and dug 'em up in May; apparently Swedish dirt is more creative than American dirt, since these songs grew in the mulching. Throughout, it sounds like he's chasing a memory or constellation of images that slip away just at the point of recalling them clearly.

I'll close by encouraging you to CHECK IT, THEN BUY IT, for yourself.

*"Freakfolk" in the sense that this guy uses the forms of American folk music to craft his own sound, NOT in the sense that he is in any way indebted to or aping the driveling mimicrky and contrived jive of shitheads usually associated with this neologism.

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