Music

Knife in the Water: Crosspross Bells

Scott Waldman

Knife in the Water

Crosspross Bells

Label: Peek-A-Boo
US Release Date: 2002-06-18
Amazon
iTunes

Out of chaos comes order. Before I pat myself on the back for coming up with such a great theory, I'll apply it to a bunch of unrelated things. A recent New Yorker profile on the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, described his method of talking. Mr. Brown speaks a few normal sentences in each paragraph, and from them he delves into highly personal phrases and then half-thoughts in which he tries out ideas that he develops or loses track of. Sonic Youth's sonically distorted music often seems to reflect a similar methodology. They harness their guitar screeches, wild drums, and galloping distortion for a magnificent effect. As far away as Sonic Youth are from James Brown, so is Knife in the Water in a different class, yet all have some skeletal current running underneath that links them. Somewhere below the sounds, ideas, notes, and chatter of these very different musicians is a well-developed sense of soulful harmony. Each musician in their own right can creatively weave a variety of sounds together in a beautiful confluence that leaves the ear open.

The melancholy-is-how-I-react-to-the-world-and-I-express-it-in-my-music theme has worn a bit thin. Knife in the Water walks that line in most of their work. So closely, in fact, that the band's music comes across as something totally different. Songwriter Aaron Blunt can weave literature and music together as effectively as Mark Eitzel. Crosspross Bells has a reflective, pensive quality with hidden harmonies and melodies that make it anything but downtrodden. Listeners of this EP will have no idea why Knife in the Water has previously been picked up and dropped off into the alternative country feeding frenzy. (We understand, No Depression magazine, that you're too hip to know 'what that means'). Knife in the Water is from Austin, Texas, but their sound is as low-fi as a ringing in the ears after a Velvet Underground concert. Perhaps the mood of Crosspross Bells can be summed up by the song "Crosshair Chapel" which is nothing more than a bobbing about on waves of heroin in a world where Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music has replaced Beethoven's Fifth. Honestly, that's not a wholly unpleasant place to be for 26 minutes and 51 seconds.

Maybe you'd like to try out some new indie band, but don't want to have to wear Spam T-shirts, get a mod haircut, or look down your nose at Grateful Dead rock fans. Well, Crosspross Bells is a perfect solution. Knife in the Water might be indie, but they aren't afraid to rock in their own chaotic, yet subtle, melodic way. And they take their name from a Roman Polanski film. The first track on the new EP, "From the Catbird Seat" is proof that this band exudes as much vivacity as it does pensiveness.

This group has lyrics that one will want to spend time with and that do not immediately yield any firm point on which to launch an analysis. Oftentimes these lyrics are nestled in the cracks left by the guitar, bass, and drums. Sometimes lines such as "We were sitting in the yard / Throwing bottles at the trees / Thinking about the permafrost hanging on from last years freeze / Some things are so persistent and they just will not let go" fall out and like a bird with a broken wing, lie there shocked, helpless and vulnerable, waiting to be devoured. It may seem that lyrics such as these reek of generation-X style apathy, but they do not fall in to that drudgery. The lyrics fit in so well with the music, and even slide beneath it, that they are elevated into a delightfully bastardized version of soul music.

This EP is a great way to check out this band. Knife in the Water is not out to prove that rock 'n' roll will really save the world as it spirals and turns, but they've created a great voice in the indie rock kingdom that is worthy of your attention.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image