I listened to this disc casually a few times and never really got into it. But when I listened with headphones and focused on it, there was a lot of good stuff about it. The music is really spare and it’s kind of hard to grab onto anything on a casual listen. As with much of what Bozulich does, she’s very free form—there’s usually a melody but it’s not up front. But careful listening pulls out what the songs are designed to do. It’s not always rewarding listening as her stuff is certainly abrasive, but I was pleased to hear some really cool sounds on the disc.
“Ain’t No Grave” is an impressionist song made up of a few bass notes and a lot of voices. There’s Bozulich singing and peaking and a male singing low notes with her during the chorus. About half way through, the song adds complicated drumming and a sprinkling of keys—all impressionistic stabs at rhythm and melody. It’s a difficult track and certainly a difficult opening track, but the catchy parts are intriguing the way they emerge from the chaos. “One Hard Man” opens with percussive drumming and Bozulich’s repeated refrain of “one hard man.” Noisy guitars are added between verses and the thumping is strangely catchy. “Drowned to the Light” is mellower with quiet instruments and delicate singing. It’s the first “pleasant song” on the disc despite the menacing tone. The chorus introduces a pretty melody both in vocals and violin. It follows a murder ballad style.
“Don’t Follow Me” is mostly spoken word with percussion and accents of keyboards although the chorus does add a melody to the voices. It’s amazing how simple chords and a backing voice can really add something to what is such a spare song. The song ends with a cool refrain of “spinning dreams spinning dreams” that builds nicely. “Gonna Stop Killing” opens with sound effects and backwards rolling tapes. But the vocal melody is the catchiest so far with a great chorus of rising notes and Bozulich’s aching voice and hammered dulcimer. The middle section even has a fairly conventional melody line. It’s unexpectedly pretty given the lyrics.
The second half of the disc seems to coalesce into a more melodic and song-structured half. “Deeper Than the Well” has scratching guitars and deep slow bass with the lyrics “I wish that I could fuck up the whole world.” It’s menacing but catchy and seems to lurch along with only Bozulich’s voice keeping the song going. “Danceland” opens as a slow bluesy song with quiet verses and a simple three note bass line. But it’s joined by a really surprisingly catchy chorus “if we could spin under the light in dance….land. It was always night in dance….land.” The middle section is a little weird until it resolves to that familiar chorus again. The song really seems to slowly unfold with quieter moments leading to if not louder ones, then certainly fuller moments. “Lazy Crossbones” adds some keyboards to the main melody. It has one of the stranger catchy melodies that I can think of—quietly and slowly sung “hey hey it’s a parade.” But the organ sound is so unlike anything else it really stands out. “What Is It, Baby” begins as a kind of slow, almost bluesy type of song until the big chords kick in for the chorus (which I imagined someone like Elvis singing). The middle of the song has a soaring “ooooh” section which sounds quite unusual for her. The ringing chords sound so vivid.
The disc ends with “Number X” an almost entirely instrumental 4 and a half-minute track. The song starts slowly with meandering guitar notes and an interesting yet menacing melody underneath. A nearly four-minute build up leads to Bozulich reciting a kind of poem that ends with the disc.
Bozulich consistently explores unusual territory and while this will never get played on any radio, it is more friendly than some of her other releases.
[READ: April 1, 2016] Odd Ducks
Odd Ducks is a play commissioned by the Nova Scotia playhouse. It is set in Tartan Cross, Nova Scotia.
There are four characters, all in their 40s. Ambrose Archibald, he is unemployed but charming and a total narcissist; Mandy Menzies was the high school beauty queen but she is in a bad marriage now, a naive sweet woman. Estelle Carmichael is Mandy’s friend and housekeeper–she had a crush on Mandy in school and has sworn off men forever. Freddy Durdle is Ambrose’s only friend but even he is fed up with Ambrose’ behavior.
The play opens with Ambrose out in the woods trying to find himself. And after a few minutes of soul searching and a minor fright he has succeeded. He is pontificating about himself when Estelle comments that she can’t listen to this crap anymore. She tells him he is full of it. To which Ambrose says, I forgive you.
Freddy breaks the wall and gets to real meat of the story–dishing the dirt on Ambrose (who shouts that he forgives his nasty comments).
As the story develops we see that Mandy, although married, has been sleeping with Ambrose. She rationalizes that her husband is old and dying (true). And from what we have seen, he appears to be an insufferable dick to her. Estelle hates to see her deal with her husband, but she also hates to see her with Ambrose because she knows enough about him to hate him.
The others know Ambrose’s narcissism and they mock him–like when we learn about his horrific attempt at being a waiter (he corrected patron’s pronunciation of nicoise). We also learn that that’s where he first met Mandy–she didn’t actually mis-pronounce the word after all (in what is probably the funniest part in the play).
And then when Mandy’s husband dies, we learn that there was an event that everyone in the play refers to as the incident.
I enjoyed the way that all four characters have a chance to monologue throughout the play. There is action (often funny) and then a character will step forward and reveal information about him or herself–what they know about each other and why they put up with it.
The story didn’t strike me as hilarious, although I’ll bet if performed well it could be very funny indeed. The ending sounds like it was done in a great parallel way that would have been fun to watch.
At work, I used to get a lot of these short plays about which I knew nothing. But that source has changed and I won’t get them anymore. Pity.