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Scott H. Biram

Graveyard Shift

(Bloodshot; US: 18 Jul 2006; UK: 4 Sep 2006)

Lower Than Lo-Fi

Scott Biram (he didn’t use his middle initial professionally until recently) is somewhat hard to describe, but let’s try.  Picture any lo-fi artist / band you know, then multiply that by 100 times lower, and you’re approaching Biram’s territory.  Dude is so minimalist, he approaches caveman territory, musically speaking.  Seeing him live is a must to grab the full essence of what he does;  he’s sort of like a one-man version of Th’ Legendary Shack*Shakers (and these two toured together earlier this year—what a night that was).


Biram has put out his own material prior to the release of Graveyard Shift, his first for a “real” label.  And to give you a preview of what to expect, I’m about to print (verbatim) what Biram intros himself on the liner notes:


Scott H. Biram—lead and harmony vocals, CB radio, loudspeaker, breathing, harmonica, gut, all acoustic & electric guitars, Hammond B3 organ, homemade footstomp board, hi hat, tambourine, claps, hambone, table thump, special effects, random noises.


Funny thing is, you hear just about every one of these (including the gut) during the course of this 14-song discourse.  Biram loves to push the envelope live, and it translates fairly well onto CD.  On the cover, it says, “This record sounds best when turned up LOUD!”  It’s a pretty accurate statement.  But if you’re expecting a cleanly engineered record, just stop reading right here and move on to your Yo La Tengo or TV on the Radio records.


Biram bathes himself in low-end sound, like it came out of a ‘20s tube radio.  He sings of graveyard shifts (hence, the title song), religion (“Only Jesus”, “Church Babies”), truckers (“18 Wheeler Fever”), work (the aptly titled “Work”), weed (“Reefer Load”), and of course, women (“Long Fingernails”).  Each sounds like Biram is sharing part of his life’s experiences in a style all his own.  It’s not a sound people are going to embrace right off the bat (unless you’re a lo-fi freak), but it’s the kind of thing that grows on you if you give it a chance and a few listens.


Scott H. Biram sounds like he’s fighting off the Devil at times, and harmonizing with him at other times, but either way, you just don’t really know.  And that’s just the way he kinda likes it.  Graveyard Shift is Biram’s love letter and death letter rolled into one tidy package.  Listen if you dare, and if you do, rewards await.

Rating:

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19 Feb 2014
Overall, the effect of the album is mostly jarring. Gusty, but jarring. It is music that moves me more to fascination than appreciation.
8 Dec 2011
One rarely feels so much energy and solidarity in loneliness and despair than when one listens to Scott H. Biram's music, not the least in Bad Ingredients. His fourth album for Bloodshot Records is also one of the year's best.
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