Gastr Del Sol & David Grubbs

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
The Serpentine Similar, 8/10
Crookt Crackt Or Fly, 6.5/10
Mirror Repair, 7/10 (EP)
The Harp Factory On Lake Street, 7/10 (EP)
Upgrade And Afterlife, 7/10
Dave Grubbs: Banana Cabbage , 6/10
Camoufleur, 7/10
Dave Grubbs: The Thicket , 8/10
Dave Grubbs: Apertura, 6/10
Dave Grubbs: Coxcomb , 6/10 (EP)
Dave Grubbs: The Spectrum Between, 7/10
Dave Grubbs: Act Five Scene One , 5/10
David Grubbs: Rickets & Scurvy (2002), 5/10
David Grubbs: A Guess at the Riddle (2004), 6/10
David Grubbs: An Optimist Notes the Dusk (2008), 6/10
David Grubbs: The Plain Where The Palace Stood (2013), 5/10
David Grubbs: Borough of Broken Umbrellas (2013), 5/10
David Grubbs: Woodslippercounterclatter (2015) , 5/10
David Grubbs: Prismrose (2016) , 6/10
David Grubbs: Creep Mission (2017) , 6/10
David Grubbs: Failed Celestial Creatures (2018), 6/10
David Grubbs: Lacrau (2018) , 5/10

Gastr Del Sol, an evolution of Bastro's last line-up, i.e. the trio of David Grubbs on guitar, Bundy Ken Brown on bass and John McEntire on drums, gave new meaning to the word "subtlety" with The Serpentine Similar (1993), which inherited from Slint the grammatical mistakes but replaced the hardcore energy of Slint with an anemic nonchalant flimsiness. Despite the mood swings, the music bordered on free-form "slo-core" and John Fahey's transcendental suites. Jim O'Rourke joined the ranks for the chamber lied Eight Corners (1994) and the chamber concerto of The Harp Factory On Lake Street (1995), both monopolized by his ambient dissonances and derailed by anarchic jamming. Gastr Del Sol became basically a duo of Grubbs and O'Rourke for the alienated scores of Upgrade And Afterlife (1996) and Camoufleur (1998), that virtually reinvented the format of the "ballad" for the post-rock generation (dissonant chamber music loosely anchored to an off-key melody).

Gastr Del Sol's research program was basically continued by the solo albums of David Grubbs, beginning with the solo sonatas of Banana Cabbage, Potato Lettuce, Onion Orange (1997). The Thicket (1998), recorded with a supergroup featuring John McEntire on drums, Josh Abrams on bass, Jeb Bishop on trumpet, and Tony Conrad on violin, was an exercise of angst-filled settings for a new style of story-telling, of mixing timbric exploration and folk melody. Its compositions betrayed and fused Grubbs' influences: Red Crayola, Pere Ubu, John Fahey and John Cage. After the avant-jazz jams of Apertura (1999) and Coxcomb/ Avocado Orange (2000), Grubbs returned to the idea of his masterpiece with The Spectrum Between (2000), although in a simpler and lighter tone.

(Translated by Carol Teri).

David Grubbs (guitar player in three of the most important bands of the '80s, Squirrel Bait Bitch Magnet and Bastro) along with bass player Bundy Brown, formed Gastr Del Sol.

The first EP, The Serpentine Similar (Dexter's Cigar, 1993), with the collaboration of John McEntire, is a deeply experimental record. Apart from a few scant touches by McEntire on percussion, the tracks are arranged for guitar and bass only or for piano and bass (in rare exceptions voice too). What sets this music apart isn't so much its bare arrangements, but rather the ambiguous incongruities in its harmony.
The lengthy A Watery Kentucky (nine minutes) is more of a "slowcore" piece, that catatonic and slighty shoddy rock, whose mawkish cords and slow rhythms veer towards the ecstacy of acidrock. Its course is infused with unsettled chords, its dialect layered in scores of sub-linguistic fragments.
Even The Odd Orbit is a free excursion of bass and acoustic guitar, that alternate with nervous jolts and impressionistic touches.
A Jar Of Fat (a rendering of Sketch For Sleepy by Bastro) is an improvised piano solo in the style of Thelonious Monk.
Grubbs even indulges himself by doing an imitation of Duan Eddy's "twang" in Ursus Arctos Wonderfilis, unsurprisingly producing that atmospheric tone in simple arrangements and dynamic structures that recall the inspirational jams by John Fahey.

David Grubbs (gia` chitarrista di tre dei piu` importanti complessi degli anni '80, Squirrel Bait Bitch Magnet e Bastro) formo`, in coppia con il bassista Bundy Brown, i Gastr Del Sol, la naturale evoluzione dei Bastro.

Il primo EP, The Serpentine Similar (Dexter's Cigar, 1993), a cui collabora anche John McEntire (altro Bastro), e` un disco fortemente sperimentale. A parte qualche sparuto intervento di McEntire alle percussioni, i brani sono orchestrati soltanto per chitarra e basso oppure piano e basso (e raramente anche il canto). Cio` che differenzia questa musica non e` tanto il fatto di essere arrangiata in maniera cosi` spartana, bensi` le subdole anomalie dell'armonia.
La lunga A Watery Kentucky (nove minuti) si inserisce nel filone dello "slowcore", del rock catatonico e un po' trasandato i cui accordi leziosi e i cui tempi lentissimi si spingono oltre le estasi dell'acidrock. Il percorso e` disseminato di accordi irrisolti, il discorso e` sfilacciato in tanti frammenti sublinguistici.
Even The Odd Orbit e` un libero excursus di chitarra e basso acustici, che alterna scatti nevrotici a rintocchi impressionisti.
A Jar Of Fat (una revisione di Sketch For Sleepy dei Bastro) e` un assolo improvvisato di pianoforte che fa pensare a Thelonious Monk.
Grubbs si toglie persino la soddisfazione di rifare il verso al "twang" di Duan Eddy in Ursus Arctos Wonderfilis, naturalmente immettendo quel timbro atmosferico in strutture minimaliste e in architetture dinamiche che ricordano le suite trascendenti di John Fahey.

Grubbs recruited by Jim O'Rourke to compose the single 20 Songs Less (Teen Beat, 1993) and the acoustic Crookt Crackt Or Fly (Drag City, 1994). Both are radical works, although of different kinds. The latter is, first and foremost, a study of guitar deconstruction. The 13-minute Work From Smoke squeezes a pastoral ballad between dissonant flamenco picking and the country-raga fantasy of a drunk John Fahey, which then fades into free-jazz jamming for the subconscious. Every Five Miles is an even more abstract stream of consciousness, in which the guitar is consistently plucked at the limit between harmony and noise, the tempo is ever changing, and the tones get harsher and harsher. The longest piece, The Wrong Soundings (15 minute), is propelled by hardcore spasms but in between the music is shapeless magma of guitars and percussions. The shorter pieces of the album are throwaways, but the longer ones contributed to define a new vision at the border between rock, folk and jazz.

Grubbs also collaborated to records by Codeine and Red Krayola, showing himself to be one of the more creative minds of his generation.

Grubbs' distinctive style has few precedents in the world of rock music. Throughout all his guises he has always shown the good taste to remain true to himself and wise even in the light of the major clashes. If anything it makes sense to dust off the rural watercolors of John Fahey, for perhaps the sole reason that they also share in an almost inspirational sense of what is to come of music, a natural propension for free improvisation.

Grubbs assunse poi Jim O'Rourke per il singolo 20 Songs Less (Teen Beat, 1993) e l'acustico Crookt Crackt Or Fly (Drag City, 1994), due lavori ancor piu` radicali. Sul secondo connubio fra i due geni da` luogo a spunti stravaganti (un duetto di chitarra e percussioni in The C In Cake, una ballata pastorale che scema in rumori elettronici in Work From Smoke), ma il disco decolla veramente quando il chitarrismo di Grubbs viene lasciato libero (in quel capolavoro di astrattismo che e` Every Five Miles) di divagare per le sue rotte solitarie. Nel secondo l'ensemble incorpora suoni "trovati", tape loop e accordi sparuti di strumenti acustici.

Grubbs ha anche collaborato ai dischi di Codeine e Red Krayola, mettendosi in luce come una delle menti piu` creative della sua generazione.

Lo stile chitarristico di Grubbs non ha molti precedenti nel mondo del rock. In tutti i suoi travestimenti ha sempre dimostrato il pregio di rimanere coesivo e razionale anche al cospetto delle peggiori dissonanze. Semmai ha senso rispolverare gli acquarelli rurali di John Fahey, ai quali lo accomuna, se non altro, un senso quasi trascendente del divenire della musica, una propensione naturale per la libera improvvisazione.

(Translated by Carol Teri).

With Brown out of the picture, but going strong with Jim O'Rourke, by now a fixed asset, the mini-album Mirror Repair (Drag City, 1994) is another sequence of staggering experiments, moderated by the lyric sensitivity of Grubbs. The protracted Eight Corners tests the dimension of the piano romance in minor tones, interspersed with lean roars and screeches of wind instruments. The two merge with the guitars in Dictionary Of Handwriting, starting in the vein of Henry Kaiser's free form aphorisms and ending with a more energetic pace.

Perso Brown ma forte di Jim O'Rourke ormai in pianta stabile, il mini-album Mirror Repair (Drag City, 1994) e' un'altra sequenza di esperimenti mozzafiato, moderati dalla sensibilita' lirica di Grubbs. La lunga Eight Corners prova la dimensione della romanza pianistica in tono minore, interrotta da sparuti barriti e squittii dei fiati. I due pasticciano poi con le chitarre in Dictionary Of Handwriting, iniziando nel segno degli aforismi free-form di Henry Kaiser e finendo a passo di carica.
O'Rourke's environmental dissonances dominate the 17-minute piece of the EP The Harp Factory On Lake Street (Table Of The Elements, 1995), basically divided into three parts: eight minutes of loud and soft excesses for small ensemble that evokes the atmosphere of an expressionist kammerspiel, a melancholy piano-based lullaby a` la Robert Wyatt, a lengthy and disjointed piano solo. The intricate chromaticism and the absurd dynamics of this piece further up the ante, pushing the Gastr del Sol project to the border with classical music. Le dissonanze ambientali di O'Rourke dominano la piece The Harp Factory On Lake Street (Table Of The Elements, 1995) di diciassette minuti per piccolo ensemble. Il cromatismo intricato e la dinamica assurda di questo pezzo aumentano ulteriormente la posta in gioco, portando il progetto ai confini della musica classica.

On UPGRADE AND AFTERLIFE, Gastr Del Sol's David Grubbs and Jim O'Rourke carry most of the load themselves, in contrast to the more collaborative nature of their earlier albums. Although John McEntire and violinist Tony Conrad do make appearances here, Grubbs and O'Rourke are engaged in a continual joust with a bevy of sophisticated found sounds. The Sea Incertain is the best example of this cut-and-paste style, blending slow-moving piano figures with the hiss of a low-register clarinet.
The monotonous guitar tolls of Hello Spiral, which move lazily into a crescendo, are highly musical compared to the long pauses and lean sounds of The Relay. To create confusion, Grubbs and O'Rourke throw in simple songs for voice and guitar along the lines of Nick Drake, such as the gorgeous Rebecca Sylvester, whose lengthy guitar repetition makes a strong emotional impact. These songs couldn't be more out of place in the overall scenery of UPGRADE AND AFTERLIFE, but the instrumentation works in perfect harmony with alienated tone of the parts. The noise becomes luxury furniture, to be arranged with taste in the (sonic) space which is available.

Con Upgrade And Afterlife (Drag City, 1996) Grubbs e O'Rourke, rimasti praticamente soli (salvo occasionali collaboratori, fra cui John McEntire e Tony Conrad), giostrano ormai soltanto con un pentagramma di sofisticate trovate timbriche. The Sea Incertain e` una sonata per figure di pianoforte in lento movimento e sibilo di clarinetto basso. Il crescendo svogliato di rintocchi monotoni di chitarra in Hello spiral e` un fatto altamente musicale paragonato alle lunghe pause e ai suoni sparuti di The Relay. A creare confusione intervengono ogni tanto canzoni spartane per sola voce e chitarra nello stile abulico di Nick Drake, che non potrebbero essere piu` fuori luogo nei loro scenari futuribili, ma che vanno in perfetta armonia con il tono alienato delle parti strumentali. Il rumore diventa mobilia pregiata, da sistemare con gusto nello spazio (sonoro) a disposizione.
Grubbs' Banana Cabbage, Potato Lettuce, Onion Orange (Table Of The Elements, 1997) is an avantguarde record along the lines of Loren Mazzacane Connors. The album is made of three solo numbers: one for piano, one for electric guitar, and one for acoustic guitar. But Grubbs' well-mannered and static style brings to mind the work of Morton Feldman and the meditations of Japanese classical music rather than Mazzacane's experiments. Grubbs gives vent to some whims of his own with the last two tracks, Potato Lettuce (twelve minutes) and Onion Orange (sixteen minutes), that skirt Cage-like silence. Ideally, this album represents the end of a long journey through the labyrinth of sounds, a journey launched with Squirrel Bait, continued in Bitch Magnet and Bastro, and perfected in Gastr Del Sol. Il Banana Cabbage, Potato Lettuce, Onion Orange (Table Of The Elements, 1997) di Grubbs e` un disco d'avanguardia nella tradizione di Loren Mazzacane Connors che contiene tre cicli di assoli, uno per pianoforte, uno per chitarra elettrica, uno per chitarra acustica. Ma piu` che a Mazzacane lo stile composto e statico di Grubbs fa pensare alle composizioni di Morton Feldman e alle meditazioni della musica classica giapponese. Grubbs si toglie qualche soddisfazione personale soprattutto negli ultimi due, Potato Lettuce (dodici minuti) e Onion Orange (sedici minuti), che rasentano il silenzio Cage-ano. Questo disco costituisce idealmente la conclusione di un lungo viaggio nei meandri del suono, un viaggio iniziato negli Squirrel Bait, continuato nei Bitch Magnet e nei Bastro, e perfezionato nei Gastr Del Sol.
O'Rourke and Grubbs are in top form on Camoufleur (Drag City, 1998), a makeshift meeting of abstract art and pop music, and, in a way, the alter ego of Upgrade And Afterlife. Two ballads tower over the album. O'Rourke's Mouth Canyon is languid and hypnotic. The texture is apparently simple but actually quite complex. Grubbs' Blues Subtitled No Sense Of Wonder is a masterpiece of restrained dynamics: piano, noise, organ, cello and trumpet behave like voices of a crowd, then soar together to accompany the human voice, and finally fade out, leaving a plaintive piano to spill out anemic notes. There is a sense of apathy and futility that envelops and warps these ballads.
For better and for worse, the other tracks reflect what the two musicians know how to do best. Season's Reverse deconstructs funk, soul and jazz (and maybe even gives a glimpse of a more "popular" side of Grubbs' music). The instrumental Black Horse deconstucts folk dances, western soundtracks, and salsa, and ends with a three-minute guitar duet that updates John Fahey to post-rock. Fahey is the main inspiration behind Bauchredner, a seven-minute guitar dream that surprisingly closes with a triumphant trumpet-driven theme.
A Puff Of Dew is both the most surreal and the most apathetic track on the album. Here the two musicians hardly play and sing: they behave as if they were forced to sing and play. Sounds float around, rather than being organized in a song.
Each Dream Is An Example is a subdued brass fanfare punctuated by piano that sounds like a Frank Zappa ouverture played at half speed.
In many ways, the album showed that the project was impossible. Not because of lack of meaning. On the contrary: O'Rourke and Grubbs had too much to say. It was impossible precisely because those ideas could only partially be squeezed into the song format. Credit must be given, actually, to Oval's Markus Popp for keeping at bay the centrifugal tendencies of the two.
It wasn't a coincidence that the album by Gastr Del Sol came out right after O'Rourke's Bad Timing, a work as revisionistic as this one, if not more.

Unfortunately, O'Rourke and Grubbs parted ways after the recording of this album.

O'Rourke e Grubbs sono al culmine della loro forma e lo dimostra Camoufleur (Drag City, 1998), che rappresenta un provvisorio punto d'incontro fra arte astratta e musica pop, e in un certo senso l'alter ego di Upgrade And Afterlife. Il disco e` dominato da due ballate, Mouth Canyon, di O'Rourke, e Blues Subtitled No Sense Of Wonder, di Grubbs, una romanza per pianoforte, organo, violoncello e tromba che sfocia in una lunga coda per solo pianoforte.
Gli altri brani sono, nel bene e nel male, concentrati di cio` che i due sanno fare meglio. Season's Reverse decostruisce funk, soul e jazz (e forse lascia intravedere un lato piu` "popolare" della sua musica). Black Horse decostruisce quadriglie folk, colonne sonore western e salsa. Markus Popp degli Oval tiene a bada gli impulsi centrifughi dei due protagonisti.
Non a caso l'album dei Gastr Del Sol fa seguito all'album Bad Timing di O'Rourke, altrettanto, se non piu`, revisionista.

O'Rourke e Grubbs litigano subito dopo la registrazione di questo album e si separano, decretando la fine del progetto Gastr Del Sol.

Dave Grubbs, who also teaches music writing at the Chicago Art Institute, is in the process of writing a dissertation on John Cage and plays in Red Crayola during his free time has an outlet for the expression of his musical gift on his second solo project, The Thicket (Drag City, 1998), recorded with a super group re-inaugurating John McEntire (Tortoise) on drums, Josh Abrams on bass guitar, Jow Bishop on the trumpet, Ernst Kirche on the horn and none other than Tony Conrad on violin. On the title-track Grubbs sings about his past accompanied by only the slight strumming of a banjo and strokes of the bass guitar, but it isn't long before the banjo starts plucking the chords like a Japanese harp and the accordion and horn invoke a funereal psalm. Two Shades Of Blue has two minutes of slow and transcendent riffs à la John Fahey, followed by the horn intoning a blues theme, and the piece becomes a jazz number for a little combo made up of trumpet, banjo and drums. The spirit of John Fahey blooms again in the country-rock of Fool Summons Train. The "songs" on the record build up to the lazy blues of Buried In The Wall, with its winding chords moving at a frenzied pace, the singing of the trance-like female voice, and a feeling of Zen mystery.
The experimental pieces begin with the anguished drones of 40 Words On Worship and segue into the piano and horn sonata of Swami Vivekananda Way. The climax may be the brief instrumental of Orange-Disaster, that brings to mind This Heat with its pressing minimalist piano figures, the hurried syncopated rhythm of the drums, and the bellowing background horns. The record concludes with the "Tibetan" drones of On Worship, as if a long "hum" were needed to free itself of a throng of emotional waste.
Each track is in fact made up of at least two parts, one of avant-guarde music, where Grubbs indulges in his habit of timbre exploration, and another of folk melodies, where Grubbs reinvents tradition with a taste of psychedelic Zen similar to as much done by Van Dyke Parks.
Dave Grubbs, che insegna anche composizione al Chicago Art Institute, sta scrivendo una tesi su John Cage e suona a tempo perso nei Red Crayola, ha modo di dar sfoggio del suo genio armonico sul suo secondo lavoro solista, The Thicket (Drag City, 1998), registrato con un supergruppo che annovera John McEntire (Tortoise) alla batteria, Josh Abrams al basso, Jow Bishop alla tromba, Ernst Kirche al corno e niente meno che Tony Conrad al violino. Sulla title-track Grubbs canta la sua storia accompagnato soltanto dallo strimpellio di un banjo e dai colpi del basso, ma dopo due minuti il banjo pizzica accordi come un'arpa giapponese e la fisarmonica e il corno intonano un salmo funereo. Two Shades Of Blue ha due minuti di accordi lenti, trascendenti, alla John Fahey, poi il corno intona il tema blues, e il brano diventa un jazz frizzante per piccolo combo di tromba, banjo e batteria. Il fantasma di John Fahey riaffiora nel country-rock di Fool Summons Train. Le "canzoni" del disco culminano con il blues anemico di Buried In The Wall, i suoi accordi snocciolati a passo catatonico e il suo controcanto femminile in trance, e un senso di trascendenza zen.
I brani sperimentali cominciano con i droni angoscianti di 40 Words On Worship e passano per la sonata per pianoforte e corno di Swami Vivekananda Way. L'apice e` forse il breve intermezzo strumentale di Orange-Disaster, che ricorda i This Heat con le sue incalzanti figure minimaliste di pianoforte, l'incalzante ritmo sincopato di batteria, e i muggiti del corno in sottofondo Il disco di chiude con i droni "tibetani" di On Worship, come se avesse bisogno di un lungo "om" per liberarsi di tante scorie emotive.
Ogni brano e` di fatto composto di almeno due parti, una di musica d'avanguardia, in cui Grubbs indulge nel suo vizio di esplorazione timbrica, e uno di melodia folk, in cui Grubbs reinventa la tradizione secondo una prassi zen-psichedelica affine a quella che fu di Van Dyke Parks.
The angst-filled drones of 40 Words On Worship and On Worship inspire the two lengthy jams of Apertura (Blue Chopsticks, 1999), a collaboration between Grubbs and Swedish avant-jazz player Mats Gustafsson. Grubbs shows the influence of minimalist Tony Conrad in these duets for harmonium and saxophone which, no matter how long they stretch (about half hour each), achieve very little in the vein of traditional songwriting. The show is "inside" the music, where tones challenge tones and harmony is continuously reinvented. (Tradotto da Silvia Romiti)

I cupi droni di 40 Words On Worship e On Worship ispirano le due lunghe suite di Apertura (Blue Chopsticks, 1999), una collaborazione fra Grubbs e il jazzista d'avanguardia svedese Mats Gustafsson. Grubbs dimostra l'influenza dell'amico minimalista Tony Conrad in questi duetti per harmonium e sax che, per quanto a lungo si protraggano (circa mezz'ora ciascuno), ottengono molto poco dal punto di vista del "songwriting" tradizionale. Lo show e` "dentro" la musica, dove i toni sfidano altri toni e l'armonia viene continuamente reinventata.

Suddenly, David Grubbs is all over the map. The EP Coxcomb (Rectangle, 1999) collects a 17-minute song that mixes John Fahey's guitar fantasies with country and jazz nuances, and will be reissued as Avocado Orange (Blue Chopsticks, 2000) with a previously unreleased full-band version of the piece Onion Orange (renamed Avocado Orange).
Then he made Push Comes To Love with Stephen Prima, Apertura (Blue Chopsticks, 1999) with Mats Gustafsson and Fingerpainting with the Red Krayola. The Spectrum Between (Drag City, 2000) is one of the best works of his career. Grubbs relocated from Chicago to New York, met new friends, achieved more independence. With a band that lists Mats Gustafsson, Noel Akchote and John McEntire, the singer and guitarist indulges in unusually upbeat lyrics, and the music is as jovial and sunny as it can be from David Grubbs. With the frugal and tender country vignette Whirlweek Grubbs sounds like an alluring cross between Nick Drake (vocals) and Leo Kottke (guitar). Grubbs enjoys the role of humble folk storyteller, whether in the enchanted fairy tale mood of A Shiver In The Timber or in the slightly psychedelic raga mood of Pink Rambler.
The oscillating bossanova Seagull And Eagull keeps that subdued approach to harmony but lets extroverted rhythms overflow, so now it feels a little like Tim Buckley fronting Steely Dan. As jazzy and even louder, almost rowdy for his standards, Gloriette continues his flirt with Brazilian music, that peaks with Show My Who To Love, the catchiest of the lot.
This is a personal and, as far as possible, a straightforward collection of thoughts. Most of the time, his talent as an arranger is left in the closet. Only the two instrumental tracks give a glimpse of that talent. Stanwell Perpetual opens with hypnotic whirlwinds of accordion and trumpet that recall Robert Wyatt's dreamy scores and slowly decays in a mystical stupor. Preface pivots on free-jazz improvisations.
For somebody who mentions John Cage and Tony Conrad as main influences, Grubbs has composed an album nostalgically in love with the folk traditions of his land. In a sense this album completes the parable started with Camoufleur towards a fusion of experimental counterpoint and traditional melody.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Walter Consonni)

Improvvisamente, David Grubbs è in ogni luogo. Oltre al suo terzo album solista, Coxcomb (Rectangle, 1999), Grubbs ha pubblicato Push Comes To Love con Stephen Prima, Apertura (Blue Chopsticks, 1999) con Mats Gustafsson e Fingerpainting con i Red Krayola. The Spectrum Between (Drag City, 2000) è il suo quarto album solista, nonchè uno dei migliori lavori della sua carriera. Grubbs si è trasferito da Chicago a New York, ha incontrato nuovi amici ed ha raggiunto una maggiore autonomia. Con una band che comprende Mats Gustafsson, Noel Akchote e John McEntire, il cantante e chitarrista indulge in insolite liriche positive, e la musica è tanto gioviale e solare quanto ciò è possibile da parte di uno come David Grubbs. Con la sobria e delicata vignetta country Whirlweek Grubbs suona come un affascinate incrocio tra Nick Drake (canto) e Leo Kottke (chitarra). Grubbs si gode il ruolo di dimesso cantastorie folk, tanto nell'incatevole atmosfera da racconto fiabesco di A Shiver In The Timber quanto nel raga vagamente psichedelico di Pink Rambler.
L'oscillante bossanova Seagull And Eagull conserva questo approccio dimesso all'armonia ma lascia che i ritmi estroversi abbondino, tanto che adesso si abbia l'impressione che Tim Buckley diriga gli Steely Dan. Benchè jazzy e persino vistosa, quasi chiassosa per i suoi standards, Gloriette continua il suo flirt con la musica brasiliana, che raggiunge il culmine con Show My Who To Love, la più orecchiabile del lotto.
Questa è, per quanto sia possibile, una schietta raccolta di meditazioni personali. Per la maggior parte del tempo, la sua abilità come arrangiatore è lasciata nel cassetto. Solo i due brani strumentali lasciano intravvedere il suo talento. Stanwell Perpetual inizia con ipnotici vortici di fisarmonica e tromba che richiamano alla mente i brani sognanti e lentamente decadenti in un'apatia mistica di Robert Wyatt. Preface è imperniata su improvvisazioni free-jazz.
Per essere uno che cita John Cage e Tony Conrad come influenze principali, Grubbs ha composto un album nostalgicamente innamorato delle tradizioni folk della sua terra. In un certo senso questo album completa la parabola iniziata con Camoufleur e volta a fondere il contrappunto sperimentale e la melodia tradizionale.

Thirty Minute Raven (Rectangle, 2001) is a 30-minute piece mainly made of incidental music for museums and performed by the same band of the The Spectrum Between.

Act Five Scene One (Blue Chopsticks, 2002) is an over-indulgent (and a little childish) computer/guitar experiment (Tony Conrad guests on violin). Grubbs is beginning to abuse the patience of his listeners with recordings that are often trivial.

David Grubbs the folk storyteller returns with Rickets & Scurvy (Drag City, 2002). The back-up band is as endearing as on The Spectrum Between, the fingerpicking as suave as Leo Kottke's, Transom displays the same brilliant humility as Whirlweek, and the frantically subdued Brazilian rhythm of Don't Think revisits his favorite obsession. However, the album is significantly different from The Spectrum Between, because the piano-tinged A Dream To Help Me Sleep, the jazzy and middle-eastern The Nearer By And By, the loud and dischordant Pinned To The Spot experiment with intricate textures and neurotic atmospheres. Unfortunately, the album is too short to pursue these new directions and Matmos pen two electronic instrumentals that don't quite seem to connect with the rest.
Other than wasting the talent of Matmos, this album does not advance the case for atmospheric post-rock. Embryonic melodies and sparse, loose soundscapes are no longer original features and can become a distraction rather than an attraction.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Andrea Salacone)

Thirty Minute Raven (Rectangle, 2001) è una composizione di 30 minuti costituita principalmente di musica di fondo per musei eseguita dallo stesso gruppo di The Spectrum Between. Act Five Scene One (Blue Chopsticks, 2002) è un esperimento estremamente indulgente (e un po’ infantile) per chitarra e computer (Tony Conrad è ospite al violino). Grubbs comincia ad abusare della pazienza dei suoi ascoltatori con registrazioni che sono spesse volte insignificanti.

Il David Grubbs cantastorie folk ritorna in Rickets and Scurvy (Drag City, 2002). Il gruppo che lo accompagna è accattivante come in The Spectrum Between, il fingerpicking è delicato come quello di Leo Kottke, Transom mostra la stessa brillante umiltà di Whirlweek, e il ritmo brasiliano affannosamente tenuto a freno di Don’t Think rivisita la sua ossessione prediletta. Comunque, l’album è significativamente diverso da The Spectrum Between, poiché A Dream To Help Me Sleep, arricchita dal pianoforte, la jazzata e mediorientale The Nearer By and By, e la rumorosa e dissonante Pinned To The Spot sperimentano strutture complesse e atmosfere nevrotiche. Purtroppo l’album è troppo breve per seguire questa nuova direzione e i Matmos compongono due strumentali elettronici che sembra proprio non abbiano niente a che fare con il resto.

David Grubbs' second collaboration with Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson, Off-Road (Blue Chopsticks, 2003), is far more creative than his solo albums.

Grubbs' side of the title-less split album with Animal Collective's Avey Tare (Fat Cat, 2004) contains atmospheric piano music.

A Guess at the Riddle (Drag City, 2004), David Grubbs' eight album, is a creative and original addition to the canon of "singer-songwriter". It does not boast any memorable song, but, as a whole, it does create a personal experience and an intriguing sonic journey. The latter is what was missing from the previous albums of the folkish strand. The lead-off track, Knight Errand, is in fact misleading: that kind of frail and catchy folk-pop a` la R.E.M. is only marginal to the success of the album, as is the gentle bard of Magnificence as Such. The emotional and musical center of the album is scattered among pieces such as the atmospheric post-folk instrumental The Neophyte, the psychodrama You'll Never Tame Me, the piano lied Your Neck In The Woods, the guitar frenzy of Pangolin and the sense of drama of Hurricane Season. Each pens its own soundscape. The main drawback is that, once again, Grubbs is content with sketching the idea, and rarely pursues it to its logical (or illogical) consequences. The lyrics, as cryptic as usual, match the surreal/stern tone of the music.

Grubbs collaborated with poetess Susan Howe on Thiefth (2005) and Souls of the Labadie Tract (2007).

Grubbs' An Optimist Notes the Dusk (Drag City, 2008) sounded like several albums in one, from the slocore ballads to the 12-minute guitarscape of The Not So Distant.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Giulio Bassanello )

La seconda collaborazione di David Grubbs con lo svedese MatsGustafsson, Off-Road (Blue Chopsticks, 2003), è molto più creativa dei suoi album solisti.


Il lato curato da Grubbs dell’album senza titolo condiviso con Avey Tare degli AnimalCollective (FatCat, 2004) contiene musica da atmosfera per pianoforte.


A Guessat the Riddle (Drag City, 2004), ottavo album di Grubbs, è una creativa e originale aggiunta al canone di “singer-songwriter”. Non vanta alcuna canzone memorabile ma, nel complesso, realizza a un’esperienza personale e un affascinante viaggio sonoro. Quest’ultimo album è quello che mancava ai precedenti del filone folk. La traccia iniziale, Knight Errand, è di fatto ingannevole: quel tipo di folk-pop delicato e orecchiabile à-la R.E.M. è marginale rispetto per la riuscita dell’album, come il canto gentile di MagnificenceasSuch. Il centro emozionale e musicale dell’album è sparpagliato qua e là come per esempio nel post-folk strumentale d’atmosfera The Neophyte, nello psicodramma You’llNeverTame Me, nella lied per pianoforte Neck In The Woods, nell’impeto della chitarra in Pangolin e nell senso drammatico di Hurricane Season. Ognuna di queste canzoni firma il proprio “paesaggio sonoro”. L’unico sconveniente è che, ancora una volta, Grubbssi accontenta di abbozzare sommariamente un’idea, e raramente la porta alle estreme conseguenze, logiche o illogiche che siano. I testi, ermetici come sempre, ben si sposano al tono surreale/rigido della musica.

Grubbs ha collaborato con la poetessa Susan Howe in Thiefth (2005) e in Souls of the LabadieTract (2007).

An Optimist Notes the Dusk (Drag City, 2008) aveva il suono di diversi album in uno, dalle ballate slo-core ai dodici minuti di The Not So Distant.

Grubbs also formed the Wingdale Community Singers with Hannah Marcus and novelist Rick Moody.

David Grubbs' The Plain Where The Palace Stood (Drag City, 2013), recorded between march 2011 and october 2012, features Andrea Belfi (drums, electronics), Attila Favarelli (electronics), Spencer Yeh (violin) and Stefano Pilia (guitar), and contains mostly brief cerebral instrumentals. Grubbs' Borough of Broken Umbrellas (Blue Chopsticks, 2013) is instead a solo guitar album consisting of two improvised jams. Woodslippercounterclatter (2015) is a 42-minute piece that set some Susan Howe's poems to Grubbs' music of piano and field recordings. Prismrose (2016) contains five instrumentals and one song, notably the eleven-minute How to Hear What's Less than Meets the Ear (abstract jazz soundpainting for guitar and drums that towards the end coalesces in a rocking jam) and the eight-minute Manifesto in Clear Language, a sort of dissonant acid-raga in slow motion. Creep Mission (2017) contains seven instrumentals, notably the hyper-psychedelic The C In Certain and an experiment that sounds like a tribute to the noise avantgarde of the 1950s, Jeremiadaic. Failed Celestial Creatures (2018), a collaboration with fellow guitarist Taku Unami, contains the 21-minute Failed Celestial Creatures, a slow blues-raga meditation that indulges in dirty drones and ends in a minefield of distortions. Lacrau (2018) collects five improvisations with fellow guitaris Manuel Mota.

The Underflow, the trio of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, trumpet player Rob Mazurek and David Grubbs, is documented on Live at the Underflow Record Store and Art Gallery (may 2019) and the subsequent live Instant Opaque Evening (january 2020).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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