[7 August 2006]
You could peg San Francisco’s Black Fiction as another skewed member of the freak folktronica tribe, residing just down the hall from Tunng and apt to borrow gas money from Red Krayola. Indeed, cuts like “Great Mystery,” have Mayo Thompson’s appealing bug-eyed naturalism, as songwriter Tim Cohen ponders the wonders of abundance, scarcity and mortality. There’s a very eccentric sensibility behind lyrics like “Hunters in the woods will kill every single deer/We will cram them in our stomachs and embody their fear/We will hang them on our walls to show that death is near/We will store them in our freezers for the next hundred years” one that falls well outside Devendra Banhart’s campfire circle. Moreover, Cohen and his band reach beyond typical instruments with arrangements that are both baroquely complicated and stripped bare. Album highlight “Magic Hands” seems a straightforward croon about the power of love until it breaks mid-cut for a swooning mix of violin, boom-cha percussion and heavy breath. “Ghost Ride” billows with reverbed vocals, sounding as abstract as Stereolab in the la-la-la-la-la chorus, but anchored with harmonica. And “I Spread the Disease” rides Motown-funky bass over a canned drum beat, the falsetto’d vocals as lackadaisical and infectious as anything on Mellow Gold. Late-album cuts like “Something Else” and “There Is a Light” mine the same trippy, late-1960s psyche-soul vein as Ariel Pink but do it somehow without turning arch and self-referential. In fact, the whole album sounds completely natural and completely mad, a giant step off the precipice into depths unknown.