August 11, 2004

Gorge Trio "Open Mouth, O Wisp"

I would like to begin by playfully thumbing my nose at anyone who thinks that Mundane Sounds is slowly turning into another Deerhoof fan page. Admit it, haters: Deerhoof rules, and almost any record that a member of said band has input in is a slice of sonic gold…even the ones that caused this website's editor to (not so) dismissively invent a sub-genre called “rehearsal rock” (like Natural Dreamers). Besides, at the very least, I wasn’t too biased to tell you that the Nervous Cop record sucked, which is why the word “almost” appeared in the previous sentence. Having said all of that, I have come to (cautiously) recommend an album by yet another Deerhoof side project, the Gorge Trio.

Guitarist John Dieterich is a Gorger, and as any fan of his main band can expect, large sections of the trio’s latest album Open Mouth, O Wisp consist of Dieterich and fellow guitarist Ed Rodriguez doing their best Zoot Horn Rollo/Antennae Jimmy Semens impersonations while drummer Chad Popple throws his kit down a flight of stairs. In fact, the best description I can muster of this record is that it’s what a CD changer stuffed with nothing but Deerhoof side projects would sound like set on “random”…and when I say “random,” I *mean* it. The track listing is largely unnecessary, but not because all of the songs sound the same. It’s for quite the opposite reason. Not only does each song sound different from the one that came before it, but many songs change tack two or three times during their brief tenure (about a fourth of the 22 songs on Open Mouth actually surpass the two-minute mark).

Opener “A Comedy in Sun” starts out sounding like two cats slowly walking on the same piano, but ends with a guitar/bass/drums jam that sounds like a free jazz record stuck in a locked groove. “Words” is a slice of pendulum piano pop that ends with a blast of static, and segues directly into “The Invisible Student,” which sounds like an acoustic version of the previous track’s main riff stripped of its rhythmic backbone…at least until the flutes (??!?) come in. The warped tape manipulations “Masks for Quilts” seem lifted from a Christian Marclay record, but then again, Marclay would have never thought to intersperse a vibraphone solo halfway through the song. The title track is a slight piece of fake gamelan that renders almost all of the Sun City Girls’ Carnival Folklore Resurrection series obsolete (which, admittedly, doesn’t say much). At four minutes, the comparatively epic “Roof Halves and Dewdrop Gems” takes a long time to ease into a growling Sonic Youth-style crescendo.

Most of the aforementioned songs, though, are anomalies on a record that is otherwise neatly divided between the lopsided string-strangling of Natural Dreamers (“Youth Island,” “Health Seekers,” “Intimate Addition”), the cutesy synthesizer experiments of the Curtains (“The Lurker,” “Divining a Hot Spot,” “The Age of Almost Living”) and the directionless digital screeching of Nervous Cop (“Memo to an Apparition,” “Dawn of a Piccolo”). If you own records by any of these aforementioned side projects, Open Mouth‘s fascinating moments will greatly outweigh the frustrating ones. If not, chances are you’ll be like Joseph and start complaining about how putting out a CD is too easy nowadays every time someone puts this album on. You already know what side of the fence I’m on. Besides, Deerhoof don’t plan on putting a new album out until 2006, so I’ll need *something* to tide me over until then.

--Sean Padilla

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