Thursday, January 11, 2018

Things we like: Big Heaven, The Pungent Sound, Darrin Kobetich

The first record I ever bought -- the Beatles' "Hey Jude"/"Revolution" -- came with an implicit choice: Did I prefer Paul and melody, or John and noise? They're not mutually exclusive, of course. For proof positive, give a listen to Big Heaven's Strike A Match EP. The sunshine in Jesse Gage and Amanda Hand's voices, whether separate or blended, rides a careening 18-wheeler of fuzzy guitars and thunderous drumming (imagine Mad Max's Marauders invading a California beach), with sardonic lyrics like "I don't mind taking all your money / I don't mind wasting your time / Sometimes life's so fucking funny / So funny I think I might cry" ("Creature") to boot.

The three shadowy multi-instrumentalists who make up The Pungent Sound take their time between releases (nine years in this case). On The CoffinWorms EP, Seattle-based mastermind John Frum, Californian Andy Gassaway (also a veteran of Frum's indie-ish "regular" band Transient Songs), and busy Fort Worthian Ray Liberio (Me-Thinks/Vorvon/FTW, plus he's doing the artwork for the new Pinkish Black record) have produced a dense, doomy half-hour of phantasmagorical psychedelic murk. Ray's vocals ooze out of the mix like a specter from beyond the void, while the instrumental tracks reverberate with bone-crushing intensity.

In recent years, ace axe-slinger Darrin Kobetich has been plying his trade in even more contexts than usual -- in multiple rock and bluegrass bands, Eddie Dunlap's improvisatory Rage Out Arkestra, and a number of Hip Pocket Theatre productions, as well as solo acoustic. Now, with Going Planetary, he may have produced his magnum opus: a cinematic melange of overdubbed ambience in which the ethereal sounds of feedback and bowed guitars bump up against earthy percussion and oud, not to mention some of his most cogent and lyrical electric soloing ever, and even a little surf music, in addition to a palate cleanser of his signature acoustic fretwork. A fascinating departure.