Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The waters that are blacker than sin are the ones that probably get splashed around in the most. They are inviting, with only a few strings attached and you come out of them feeling like your skin was made out of current, a bull prodder or a branding iron - like the heat that you generate by rubbing two pieces of denim together quickly. You might even see flashes of firecracker sparks, smell things in a more aromatic, lush way and be able to enjoy a sensory overload of epic proportions. Walking that line between acceptability and damnation or just confusing one for the other in a flurry of impulsive movement is terribly attractive for a drifter's soul, for a man who finds that the rips and holes in his clothing define him and leave his knots and bumps as credible sources.
It's interesting that more and more bands who embrace the crazy life of driving over every inch of this vast country over and again don't get more indebted to the history of it, the staggering openness of most of it, the bloody part of its past, the beautiful old ideas of selling souls at the intersections of country roads and of escaping off into the wilderness of ambiguity and self-sustaining living, where the quail and rabbits are always fresh and you have to wash the dirt from your own land from the vegetables you're throwing into the boiling pot for that night's dinner. Blitzen Trapper have taken the broken wasteland and the thoughts of the broken men into the same mixture with a sense of awe that there's more than enough to believe in.
The Portland band isn't a stranger to the contemplation of the black waters of sin. The members are not strangers to the sweet and saltiness of fresh kettle corn or the succulent meal roasting out in the backyard, slow-cooking on a spit. They aren't strangers to taking heady material and making it sound like a big prize trout bursting out of a curling piece of rapids - flicking its tail and contorting its body as if it were framing up an ollie before the descent - and then landing back down into the river with a gigantic splash. It's a smooth, everyday feeling of fleeting time that is still being used properly despite its speeding directly out of the hand, out of the window.
There's a ginger and charming touch to all of the sounds that this band of great friends make, whether they're crafting odd bursts of hyperactivity that sometimes sound as if Nashville was short-circuiting or doing what they do best - making songs that turn somber bits of consternation into whistling ballads and sweltering flushes that are just swollen with horizons past and present. They seem to have taken the idea of an old pioneer village or maybe more appropriately, some ghost town with one of those player pianos that just starts into a galloping tune when the saloon doors swing open, wire it up with the advanced thoughts of the modern man as he gets tested and tempted by things that none of those old guys could have imagined. There are transformation stories and stories about people sickened with worry and stories about being out on the lam, just navigating the largely cruel world of a fugitive.
Furr, the band's latest masterpiece, is another installment that rides the brainwaves of the rambling man who always feels torn from the places and the people that he holds dearest, only to find that the sound of their own wheels does drive them partially crazy. They have a hundred words for this. They have a thousand phrases for getting to their point. They have a million ways to talk about fire, sin and guilt. It's great when the good guys can think like the bad guys and the sad guys. Being in the boots of those haggard men who have been places and imagined what it must have been like to have been there first and to have lived amongst those who were so new to the game of sin and old to love is where we're off to.
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