Dan Friel - "One Legged Cowboy" (mp3)
Parts & Labor - "This House Won't Know You" (mp3)
Parts & Labor's last two full-lengths were a couple of my favorite rock records of the past few years (Stay Afraid especially, I think I might've overrated Mapmaker slightly on my year-end lists last year), so I was interested to hear the 2 side projects they released recently, one an EP by the band and the other a solo album by member Dan Friel. I was especially curious about the EP, Escapers Two: Grind Pop, because of its central conceit: over 50 very short songs all recorded in one long weekend. Considering that they covered The Minutemen on their last album, I figured they had as good a chance of anyone of cracking the code on how to make a good record out of a constant stream of songs less than a minute long.
But the results on Escapers Two were a little disappointing to me, although it's not as annoying now as it was on my first listen. The EP was the last thing the band recorded with former drummer Christopher R. Weingarten, who I occasionally bullshit about music with on a message board, and it has the same pummeling, squealing, relentless aesthetic as the albums he played on. I just get frustrated by the onslaught of mediocre ideas, alternating with promising ideas that I wish they fleshed out as longer songs. As an experimental release, it's admirable. But ultimatedly I wish they'd just used this burst of creativity as a well to draw from for future songs, and pick out the best sounds from here to turn into some awesome 3-minute or 5-minute songs. I wish I'd caught the band at Whartscape last week, but I was just too burnt out from the 3 previous days of covering Whartscape and some other festivals (and I heard their set got cut short by rain anyway). I'm sure I'll see them live eventually, though.
Dan Friel's Ghost Town is roughly the same length as Escapers Two, but it has 8 tracks instead of 51, and ends up a lot more enjoyable for focusing on a handful of ideas and spending a decent amount of time on each. It's basically just a more stripped down version of the synth skree he does on the band's records, but each individual sound and texture gets more room to breathe without the presence of vocals or drums or guitar, and there's some pretty awesome sounds in there. It's kind of funny how, after years of practically avoiding all instrumental music, lately a lot of my favorite records have been kind of sound collage pieces like this and X-Ray Yankee Zulu Tango and Ghosts I-IV.