Built To Spill
Hop Along, Alex G
Sat · September 24, 2016
Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm
$22.00 - $25.00
This event is 18 and overhttp://www.georgiatheatre.com/event/1205037/
In the summer of 2012, Martsch and his longtime bass player Brett Nelson and drummer Scott Plouf recorded an album’s worth of new songs and then went on tour. Martsch was unsatisfied with his performance on the recordings, feeling that he had had too few “eureka moments” in the studio and planned to tweak his parts after tour. Then, citing tour burnout, Nelson and Plouf quit the band, leaving Martsch to scrap the recordings and essentially start over. Adding longtime musical comrades Jason Albertini on bass and Steve Gere on drums, and along with guitarists Jim Roth and Brett Netson, the new Built To Spill emerged a month after reforming to play more shows in 2013 than any other year in the band’s existence. Energized by the new blood as well as marathon rehearsal sessions, Martsch decided to revisit the recording process as a trio, without the other guitar players. “With fewer people it’s easier to focus and communicate during the songwriting process,” says Martsch. “Also we wanted to make the record a little more stripped-down, a little rawer than our last one.”
Over much of the next year, the band would travel to Portland, Oregon, to record with producer Sam Coomes, the Quasi founder whose keyboard playing appears on several earlier Built To Spill albums. “Working with Sam was awesome. He would come to rehearsals and take notes and record us on various little devices. He had ideas for the songs, structural changes, and things like that, but most importantly, he was enthusiastic. We had rehearsed a ton and were maybe losing perspective a little, so to have someone we admire and trust telling us we were on the right path was huge. He also shared our vision of leaving out shit that’s not necessary.”
Acknowledging the intricate, bombastic drumming from Gere and Albertini’s effortless ability to “keep it in the pocket and move the song along,” Martsch found inspiration and confidence. He completed the songwriting with his usual method of piecing together scraps of guitar and instrumental parts from tapes of jams from previous eras of creation, along with the easy cohesion of the trio on new material, which they had practiced and demoed endlessly before setting foot in the studio.
“When we get together and pick up our instruments, I always believe that something magical is going to happen. And it often does, but it’s a magic that maybe only we can feel, in the moment, and doesn’t necessarily translate to tape or to other people. So we keep messing with it until it feels like real music to us. The songs evolve over a long period of time through trial and error. There’s a lot of ideas that don’t go anywhere, and it’s just a matter of leaving them out and including the things that work.” Whether a call by Coomes to abandon a trumpet in favor of a tripped-out guitar, or a killer drum beat evolving from a simple exercise pattern, or even a coincidentally connected artistic inspiration from Alejandro Jodorowsky, the tarot and a photograph of pets, there was no shortage of eureka moments during the making of Untethered Moon.
The album begins with the hard-hitting trio of “All Our Songs,” “Living Zoo,” and “On the Way,” songs that are as complex and compelling as anything on previous Built To Spill outings.
Ripping solos, warm tones, vague and familiar Martsch themes of subconscious connection, human commonality and memory, Neil Young influences—it’s all there. “Never Be The Same” is a song from Martsch’s past, redone and encouraged by Coomes, while “C.R.E.B.” is a meditation on the scientific process of forgetting. The album ends with the eight-minute standout “When I’m Blind,” with solos echoing in and out of a drum-tight jam held down to perfection by the new guys. All in all, it’s the unmistakable sound of Built To Spill, but with a new energy that hearkens back to Martsch’s beginnings all those years ago in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Two decades on a major label and even more as a successful musician, the fire and focus haven’t changed for Martsch in the least. “We like making music and that's why we do this. Of course if everyone else hates this record, we’ll be bummed. We are trying to make music that people will enjoy.”
Their new album, Painted Shut, (out on May 5, 2015 via Saddle Creek) is their 2nd full-length (preceded by Get Disowned in 2012). However, this release marks their first time creating as a full-formed entity, arranging everything as a group. It was co-produced, recorded and mixed by John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, etc.) in the great cities of Philadelphia and Brooklyn, and incidentally finished in the shortest span of time the band has ever made anything.
Like their debut, Painted Shut is a series of accounts, a procession of fleeting and repeating characters. However, it diverges from its predecessor in its close-up, controlled approach (most of the album features the band recording live), and more focused portraiture. Whereas Get Disowned calls forth a dreamy collage of protagonists in a tone that’s often anthemic and surreal, Painted Shut is a grounded, less merciful image of many struggling adults (and children) in a severe landscape.
Often depicted in Painted Shut are the two lives of legendary (though generally unknown) musicians, Buddy Bolden and Jackson C. Frank, who were plagued with mental illness until their penniless deaths. Included are accounts of more everyday poverty, abuse, greed; and banal, sub-par behavior. Society is unveiled as a structure that, in reality, was most certainly not built with everyone in mind. Clearly this is difficult subject matter. Yet the songs themselves move unencumbered and easily, forming angular pop anti-anthems, at times jubilant as well as irreverent. Somehow, they are not sad songs. There is joy, in the abandon of Frances’ unforgettable voice, in the exulting choruses. One wakes to a sky that is a bright, ageless blue. It’s morning and so clear outside that multitudes of lives can be seen, in focus despite the distance. All of this is viewed through a window sealed with cracked paint that cannot be opened on either side. That is how we must often view the lives of others, especially when it comes to people who have lived and gone from this world. That’s another story.
Over the course of six self-recorded and mostly self-released LPs, that vision has come to bear in frequently breathtaking, innately melodic forms. As Alex G, the Philadelphian singer-songwriter has built and feverishly shared a body of work unassuming in its presentation but astounding in its depth, a stream of recordings so rich and expansive that settling on a favorite song is nearly impossible: The moment you finally choose one, you discover another you hadn't heard yet.
Beach Music was written and recorded in Giannascoli's apartment, between the Fall of 2014 and the Spring of 2015, during breaks from touring with the likes of Elvis Depressedly, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and Gardens & Villa. While its predecessors often came in uninterrupted bursts—from his head to his Bandcamp page in a matter of hours and days—Beach Music was shaped in part by Giannascoli adapting to life as a touring musician. Songs were written within months of one another rather than all at once, with influences ranging from noise music to piano-based laments to Southern rock to the rhythmic focus of techno—whatever he happened to be most interested in at the time. "Every song is coming from a different place," he says. "It branches off in all these directions, but it has its own sound. It's not something I do intentionally, but I'm the common thread."
The result is Giannascoli's most cohesive and beautiful work to date, as heard in the iridescent guitars of "Bug," the starlit whispers of "Mud," and the singularly strange harmonics of "Brite Boy." Some feature parts of songs that he began writing as a kid; all are haunting additions to a songbook whose rewards continue to evolve and multiply with every listen. "I wanted this album to sound really warm and unpretentious and unfiltered," he says. "I wanted to make music that was completely honest, music that was coming really naturally to me. I don't know what or who I am if I'm not writing songs."
215 N. Lumpkin St
Athens, GA, 30601