Starving Weirdos - Eastern Light (Root Strata 2xCD-R)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma of Root Strata did me the kind favor of sending off Starving Weirdos' "Eastern Light" reissue, a reissue of an album which I think originally came out on Root Strata as well. Although this reissue is limited to 150 copies so don't snooze. 150 hand-painted (well it looks like somebody threw paint in the general direction of the sleeves creating a nifty 3D "bevel" effect) cardboard-sleeved copies. I originally heard their name reading through the bi-weekly Aquarius Records list and I'll be damned if they don't have Archetypal Aquarius Records Band plastered all over them. I'm wondering how many kids started up their own basement freak-jazz stoner/boogie noise psych band just to get featured on the Aquarius list? Shirley a lot at this point. I mean, I know people have joked about it, but who took the first step? Could be these guys, they've got all the makings of such and by now you definitely don't need me to tell you what that means. Nevertheless if these guys aren't just a Masked Marauders Pt. II (and in all honesty I'm sure they're not) they're probably at least making a quasi-decent career from that first review. So who am I to say otherwise? Blaaarrrgh.
Apparently the Starving Weirdos bros (Brian Pyle and Merrick McKinlay are the core and they're joined here by Steve Lazar, Monica Chavez, Jon Pyle, Mike Whittaker and...Pete) have already recorded a dearth of material - ten albums and they're all good, they say! - which means they must have an extraordinary amount of time on their hands sine this one too is packed to the gills. Two CD-Rs, two hours of music. "Eastern Light" opens with "Plastic Gagaku", piece one of three. It's a slender shimmy of harmonica, percussion, and lots of homemade/unidentifiable sounds at least to mine ears. But geez it sounds so surrrious, a bundle of ominous clanging and thumping and gusty ambience. Like Campbelle Kneale hookin' up with Phil Todd and Steve Stapleton's the ump. Which is kind of not really a great thing because the duo (trio? quatro? cinco?) mingle around with various sounds but never latch onto anything specific and there isn't a single second of sound that sticks in your skull when it's all said and done. And to be quite honest it's not that much of a blast when it's playing, either. Same for "Sea-Foam at Midnight", doling out all kinds of jangling bells and guitar and forrestrialisms that aim for No-Neck but fall considerably short and into the realm of "makin' music because we can". And combined with a CD burner, that's double trouble. 25-minute closer "Quiet Shit" (and you thought the other titles were good) takes a long time to get going but finally melds into a kind of Cluster/Maeror Tri synthesis before swerving off into some jungle rhythm terrorist assault and then into aimlessly plucked strings and then into some kind of wind instrument that I can't lay a finger on...man the whole first disc sounds like an unedited session of "what happens when we play instrument A and instrument B together" that's best left for an audience somewhat smaller than the 150 copies allowed. It's got me longing for the warm strands of Keith No-Neck's wispy beard instead.
Disc two has two tracks: "Recital Hall" clocking in at 44 minutes and "Bro-In-Out" at 21. The former doesn't have quite enough solid ideas to justify its length but still winds up being my favorite with some awesome kraut/horn jamming wherein the group finally pull off their most convincing New Weird American impression to date. They keep up a pretty tremendously-understated tribal-style Pyramids/Gong/Alan Watts flair throughout, indeed a heavily baked firewood-romping atmosphere that doesn't smack of pastiche or anything of that sort. It's the kind of track you could put on loud and go about your daily business to as the tune works its way into your psyche. I approve! "Bro-In-Out" is almost aggressively obnoxious for the first ten minutes with a pummelling keyboard drone duking it out with an overly-loud flute for top billing amidst errant strands of guitar dissonance...but then gets playfully enjoyable for the last ten as some toy instruments frollick amongst cavernous echoes like rainbows shining through cathedral ceilings and something close to a tambura or a sitar charms my heart through and into the closing ambience...all that said I wound up enjoying almost all of the last disc and almost none of the first, so it's a good thing I'm a patient man or I could've written off SxWx quicker than you can say John Moloney's your uncle.
I'm pretty sure Jefre sells his Root Strata products pretty cheap, so if you feel like this is your thing than you probably haven't got a whole lot to lose. I myself would spend my money filling out my collection of bands that probably had a huge influence on these guys because there's only so much of this kind of music a dude can take. Well, this dude at least. You young'uns out there might have a better chance of hanging out with the Weirdos for the full two hours...I'll content myself to try and "pop" the gobs of dried paint on the sleeve in the meantime.