Thursday, 31 May 2012

DENT - 'Stimmung' (Magnetic)

I have already confessed my love for Camper Van Beethoven earlier in these annals, but we have yet to investigate the weird side projects that I also love. Don't worry, we'll have our dalliance with Monks of Doom eventually, and just a warning - Meridian is gonna get the Golden Cinderblock Award. But what about the lesser-known offshoots? Sadly, I don't have any Hieronymous Firebrain records apart from some old dubbed tapes, but shit, what I wouldn't give to hear 'Waning Crescent Love Spit' right now! (Thanks, Bandcamp, for making this possible). DENT is J. Segel and V. Krummenacher, and a cadre of friends, all under silly pseudonyms like 'Stands-Naked-In-Moonlight' and 'MC Salmon'. DENT is where these guys let loose and make weird, improvisatory music with an experimental edge, except it's not that wild -- there's an organic, instrumental quality to almost everything here. The vocals are largely extemporized and when the porny guitar leads (a tendency evident in later Monks of Doom records, for sure) take over, it's undercut by the babbling vocals and music-box overdubs ('April Fools' and the opening track 'Make Me 1 w/everything' are great examples of this). Stimmung, which has nothing to do with the Stockhausen work, as far as I can tell, was a strange record for me to listen to when I was 16. I enjoyed the songforms most of all - the subtle pop hooks, the almost-too-far excursions into dance and hip-hop forms, and most of all the mystique. My deep love of all things Camper Van Beethoven certainly helped, and the spirit of irreverence remains throughout this even if the ha-ha is absent. The epic jam here is 'Manchester Mystery House', a long techno-influenced maximalist overture, but my pick is 'Some Grey Clouds', an eerie, discordant experiment that lets the space take over - a sea of isolated vocal snippets and tentative string plucks, with a tidal ebb and flow beneath. Sure, Stimmung is tossed-off, but after listening to it now for the first time in a decade, I'm enjoying it far more than I would have ever imagined. There's a tension between the more lyrical, Krummenacher-driven tunes ('Paris? New Mexico' is a wonderful psych-folk jam, reminding me a bit of CVB's 'Form Another Stone' from II & III) and the (I assume) Segel-drievn freakouts. There's an untitled bonus track, because everyone putting out their own CDs in the mid-90s was obsessed with this possibility, and it's the most straight-ahead folksong imaginable (even against 'Won't You', which has a Holy Modal Rounders-style warp to it), a rant about then-California governor Pete Wilson. Dated as it may be now, it's a voice of countercultural protest that needed to go somewhere, though I understand why they left it off the track listing. At just over an hour, Stimmung slightly wears out its welcome, but it's interesting to wonder why these musicians feel so free here and not as free on their other Magnetic-label projects. It's not like the goof quotient is shocking or uncommercial; but then something makes this out of step with indie music of 1995, indeed. 

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