by Nathan Dean
Blitzen are some cryptic fellows. I know, for example, that the group features former members of such other esteemed local outfits as Skye Klad and the Minx and that this CD is the first in a series of three 3-song EPs that the band will be releasing.
I know as well that the disc was recorded with former 12Rods mainstay Ryan Olcott
at Integral Studios and sounds suitably sexy to match those credentials. Just
who these people are remains a mystery, however, with the liner notes providing
only first names to help me piece together the puzzle (Jason plays guitar and
sings, Chrissy plays keyboards, Matt plays drums). Their website (BlitzenMusic.com)
is currently equally uninformative. No matter, however, as the fuzzy no-wavey
garage rock on their debut speaks plenty loudly for itself. Grab your tambourine
and get ready for some sinister ass-shaking sass! (Blitzen will be performing
the CD release show for EP 1 on Fri. Feb. 18 at the Kitty Cat Klub with Cockfight
and Dallas Orbiter. 9 p.m. $5. 21+. 315 14th Ave. SE, Mpls. 612-331-9800.)
Prime track: "Buffalost"
Pines are the fresh-faced local duo of Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt with
the aid of a slew of friends. Anyone currently still crying into their beer
over the demise of local alt. Country giants Bellwether would do well to check
out their debut. Benson is the son of well-established Iowan roots rock guitarist
Bo Ramsey (best known for his work with Grammy nominated folkie Greg Brown)
and talent clearly runs in the family. Although occasionally treading a little
too close to trad. retread territory for comfort, The Pines are at their best
when eschewing straightforward bumpkin rock and opting for something more obtuse
(a prime example being the moody instrumental "Pale White Horse,"
which showcases a bit of studio know-how in addition to folksy musical chops).
These guys are plenty young and will undoubtedly find more of their own voice
on future efforts—an auspicious and carefully crafted debut.
Prime track: "Black Train"
(Break Even Records)
are the Greg Schaefer Trio (although they generally boast more than three people
on stage at any given time). Post-punking the jazz scene in the Twin Cities
since 1999, the group was formed when pop-punk veteran Schaefer (guitar, trumpet)
found himself wanting to explore more jazz leaning textures. Jazz purists and
rockists alike will be flummoxed when it comes to pinning down precisely the
nature of sound GST stir up—but that's largely the point. An interesting
cooled out instrumental experience sure to appeal to fans of the Chicago post-rock
scene and its ilk (Tortoise, the Sea and Cake in their more ambient chilled
out instrumental moments), GST opt for a more organic approach than any of that
set. You won't find synthesizers and drum machines here—although there
is plenty of spectral electric guitar picking, cooled out brass and the occasional
touch of violin to keep things moving (or head bobbing casually as the case
may be). The group's latest, Bug Town, is an interesting amalgamation
of compositions ("Dead Calm"), improvisations ("Clocked at 45")
and out-of-left-field cover choices (both Led Zep and Pink Floyd get unconventional
makeovers)—all recorded live at some of the finest venues in town (Acadia
Theater, Frank Stone Gallery, the 400 Bar). What at first feels like an unstable
mish-mash ends up being an essential chronicle of an anything goes musical troupe
unlike any other currently working the Twin Cities circuit.
Prime track: "Mom’s Still Dead"
The Chisago County EP
Damn, the fellers in the Gleam can't carry a tune in a bucket—but they
sing with such committed verve I end up beaming in approval anyway. Hailing
from North Branch, these peeps know how to do rough-and-tumble country rock
right. Those missing the days when Jeff Tweedy also couldn't sing and belted
out about screen doors and trains (it was 15 years ago but certainly feels like
a lifetime), will be glad to know that the legacy of hard drinkin' flannel wearing
twang-rock isn't in danger of fading away. The Gleam's brand of kickin' guitar
pickin' racket serves as a nice reminder that as long as young men are ready
to strum acoustic guitars until the strings pop and their arms fatigue country
rawk will live on! I'll raise a grain belt premium to that!
Prime track: “Leave Yr City”