July 26, 2003

Gordon B. Isnor "I Am A Conjuror"

I have to admit that initally I Am A Conjuror's beauty alluded me. I..just..didn't..get...it. When you first get the record, you'll look at the cover art and think, "what is this?" The text looks like some form of alien language, with an odd-looking drawing on the cover. I know, I know, you can't judge a book by its cover...but, indeed, you do, because covers are made so that the book will be judged. So I thought, "bet this music will be weird," and I was right. Gave it one listen and set it aside. Did nothing for me.I picked it up yesterday, thinking that maybe I should give it a second listen. I can't really figure out what it was that made me balk at it first, because I Am A Conjuror has plenty of the things I like. Weird lyrics? Check. Odd instrumentation? In spades. Keyboards? Tons. Cuteness? Totally. Sincerity? It's almost earnest. I guess maybe I was in a bad mood when I first heard it, because this record is so...awesome!

Imagine, if you will, a blend of a less-pretentious Mountain Goats and a funnier, less lowest-common-denominator Atom & His Package, and you've practically hit the nail on the head. I can't really tell if he's using a full band or if he's doing it all himself (details are quite sketchy here), but it sounds like he's got a pretty good accompaniment, and even though he uses programmed-based beats and rhythms, it's still done quite tastefully. Broken guitar strings and cracking singing voices meets electronic bleeps and bloops and sound effects straight out of the preprogrammed Casio beginner's keyboard--all of these things make a joyful noise when put together. Doesn't seem like it should, but, hey, stranger things have happened. As far as lyrical content, well, let's just say that I'm not gonna judge something this peculiar on the basis of interpretation. I am, however, a fan of "Discofuck," "If I were the Last Man on the Planet Earth," "Goody-B," "The War on Art" and "I'm Not a Person Anymore."

I Am A Conjuror is one of those rare records that simply cannot be captured in a mere review; I just don't feel like I've served it full justice. I looked back at what I wrote about it earlier (this is my second attempt at a review) and I feel like I'm selling it short. In fact, I still feel like I'm selling it way, way short. It's simple music, but it never sounds simple; it's smart music, but it never sounds very intelligent. It's a shambling mess of a record, and it sounds real good. It's nice, every now and then, to get a record that leaves you befuddled but happy, and I Am a Conjuror certainly does that. Thanks, Mr. Gordon B. Isnor. I needed that! It's quite refreshing.

--Joseph Kyle

Label Website: http://www.geocities.com/lordsirskronk

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