June 24, 2005

Weird Weeds "Hold Me"

Austin, Texas' Weird Weeds refuses to stand still, and that's a major part of their appeal. Their debut album, Hold Me, starts with "Paratrooper Seed," which begins with a pretty flute loop that recalls mid-period Pearls Before Swine, which then leads into a very pretty folk ballad that's reminiscent of Pearls Before Swine disciples Damon & Naomi. It's all well and good, but then, the next song, "50 Dollars," is rougher, losing the folk edge for a jazzy math-rock style that's quite a bit different than before, but it's still as pretty. Don't get comfortable, because the next song, "Castor Plants," ditches that style for a free-formed rock blast that instantly reminds of the more lo-fi experimental moments of Unrest. Moments of soft slide guitar and comatose drum beats are infused with gamelan-style guitar picking and droned-out psych-rock bliss. After listening to Hold Me, it's no surprise to learn that members of the band have connections with Xiu Xiu, Charalambides and Castanets, or that they are the Midwest soul mates of Deerhoof--and especially Deerhoof offshoot Curtains, perhaps one of the few bands with whom you can accurately compare Weird Weeds.

In refusing to define their sound, they've transcended the boundaries of any and all musical genres, their sound classifiable solely as 'experimental' and nothing more. Over thirty-one minutes, Weird Weeds plays the refusing to stay the same game, and surprisingly, it works! All four members of the band are excellent musicians, and their ability to not stand still stylistically actually makes their sound fresh. Hennies is an excellent singer and a great jazz drummer, guitarists Aaron Russell and Kurt Newman are masterful guitar players, but Sandy Ewen is the band's secret weapon; her slide guitar is pretty--apparently, it's fun to watch her live, as she often eschews slide bars in favor for a piece of chalk--and when she sings, it's gorgeous, too. (Note to the band: allow her to sing a little more next time!) The comfortable boy/girl vocal interplay between Ewen and Hennies on the opening "Paratrooper Seed" is quite pretty and introduces the band as gentle people, and it's true; the one constant in Weird Weeds' music is gentleness. Sure, there are moments that are awkward and complicated, such as when Ewen lets loose with a holy-hell scream on "Hold Me/Popcorn Trees," and "Bright-Work" sounds quite ominous, but even in the darker moments, Hold Me is never less than pretty.

It's always exciting to discover an unknown treasure, and Weird Weeds is quietly and quite easily one of Austin's best new bands. Are they jazz? Are they rock? Are they folk? You might not know how to classify them, and describing them is quite difficult, but one thing remains: you've never heard beauty until you've heard Hold Me.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.weirdweeds.com
Label Website: http://www.editionmanifold.com

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