David Grubbs has been kicking up dust for more years than he would like us to remember. In an interview a few years back, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore commented how much Grubbs has changed since first meeting him on a tour with Grubbs’ former glory Squirrel Bait. I am imagining that was sometime in the mid-eighties and Moore found Grubbs to be “this snotty punk rocker.” Today Grubbs is a sensitive introspective composer and songwriter. His years in Gastro Del Sol with then nemesis Jim O’Rourke confirms Moore’s observation. Grubbs isn’t wistful about his years with O’Rourke, only that on his own he feels less restricted.
The Spectrum Between is Grubbs’ fourth solo recording and his first since he left the persistent indie musical think-tank of Chicago. The music found here is not surprising, given Grubbs’ previous work. Pristinely captured, appropriately relaxed, almost precious in it’s approach, The Spectrum Between washes over the listener with equal amounts of clarity and originality.
The album is most noteworthy for its sonic quality. As this community of Midwest musicians progress through their careers the level with which they approach their craft continues to be head and shoulders above their peers. Fifteen plus years of musical invention has been very good to Grubbs, McIntyre, O’Rourke and company.
The album begins with a slightly jagged but soothing minimalist guitar figure played by Noel Akchote called “Seagull and Eagull.” In almost symphonic fashion a recurring theme is set for the rest of the album. The theme is not one of content but of sonic texture. “Whirlweek,” the second track, eases its way into a somber tuneful style which seeks to permeate the entire recording. Like a master musician, Grubbs’ compositions are coordinated with meticulous attention to pacing and overall mood. He sets a consistent color of sound and maintains it throughout. Even the relative wildness of “A Shiver in the Timber” and “Preface” seem completely consistent with the arcs and dips of the whole recording.
The crew of musicians assembled here is consistent with Grubbs’ recently appropriated approach of a rotating cast of characters. fans of his work will recognize John McIntyre, Mats Gustafsson and Dan Brown, all members of the aforementioned Chicago contingent.
By the end of the album you will find yourself immediately playing it again because with the right attention this recording gives you enough on the first listen to make you return to it again and again. This is what 15-plus years of practice will do for your craft.
// Notes from the Road
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