Lawnmower – West (CF 178)
When quickly listening to the new Clean Feed releases, this one struck me immediately as something special. Not only because of its unusual title and art work, but also because the line-up consists of two electric guitars, played by Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton, the alto of Jim Hobbs (of the Fully Celebrated Orchestra), and the drums of Luther Gray. The latter is the band’s leader and composer, and last but not least by the wonderful music you hear on this album.
The first track starts with dual guitar single chord repetitive background (with some changes), over which Hobbs’ wailing sax gets more passionate as the music progresses, with rhythmless drumming by Gray to support this: the effect is rock-ish and trance-inducing at the same time.
“Lawnmower”, you say? What’s the link? It so happens that Gray spent hours (thousands!) mowing lawns while listening to music of all possible genres in his headphones. Good for the musical education, bad for the ears. His music integrates these various influences.
The second piece is calm but with an underlying tension and intensity that is almost creepy. Again, the guitars and the drumming are full of control and restraint, playing the least possible sounds to generate the most effect, while the alto is full of sad emotions alternating with resignation and pain, with one guitar adding drama with some high feedback tones.
“Prayer Of Death”, starts with some Bill Frisell-like country guitar, too soft and too easy, with simple chord changes and basic drumming, making me almost turn off the music, but gradually the screaming sax puts everything luckily in a different perspective. On “Giant Squids”, weird guitar sounds and frantic drumming conjure up images of unknown and unwanted experiences of the deep, with only the sax doing something what can be called normal. And then it gets weirder all the time, more minimalist, more fragile and sensitive than the previous tracks, with barely vibrating sounds creating a fantastic sound texture on “Dan”, but then bizarrely, like in a David Lynch movie, you get to hear “I Love”, a slow dance, with sax-playing reminiscent of the 50s, if it were not for the contrasting guitar noise in the background.
And the long last track takes you into lawnmower territory – industrial noise shifting color and shade, with Doppler-effects, drone-like but with a sax that sings on top of it, like the tune from the headphone barely making it over the noise of the machine.
A major achievement of creative composition, careful sound arrangement, controlled and powerful playing. Highly recommended.