Photo: Anita Martinez / Earsplit PR

San Diego’s Those Darn Gnomes Up the Weirdness Game With “Birds” (premiere)

Can slime mold be a muse? Can you cross more streams than this collective? All those answers and more are shrouded in mystery on new track from Those Darn Gnomes. Maximum weirdness.

San Diego’s favorite free jazz/metal unit Those Darn Gnomes will issue their latest album, Calling Whitetails to a Tuned Bow on all digital platforms and via eco-walled CD on 28 June via Nefarious Industries.

The record’s opening track, “Birds” serves as an exemplary dose of what Christian Molenaar and his crew get up to on a regular basis: A collision of avant-garde jazz, the wild, wooly experiments of composer Harry Partch, Beatnik poetry, shattered noise, shards of black box theater, the sinister weirdness lurking behind the childlike chaos of The Muppet Show. Somewhere in there are moments of calm and one drifts away on a bed of acoustic jazz meditations that recall Ralph Towner’s best, most imaginative work in that world during the 1970s; strains of minimalism, lysergic opera, and ancient campfire songs emerge before we’re thrust back into a core of molten weirdness that provides total catharsis. ‘Tis only the beginning.

Molenaar offers these observations on the new LP/experience: “Assembling Calling Whitetails to a Tuned Bow was a messy process; this album features a wider range of songwriting methods than any we’ve made before. While our previous records brewed dense blends of free improvisation and convoluted compositional techniques (serialist canons, tangled webs of counterpoint, aleatoric games to name a few), I knew I wanted to take things farther and try to incorporate more new ideas. To that end, I spent a good deal of this album’s gestation time on intricate sound design from unique sources: namely, slime mold.”

He continues, “While writing this album and living in absolute filth I ended up accidentally cultivating slime mold (physarum) and, rather than simply cleaning my house like a functional human, I began researching tools to track the mold’s growth rates. Once the data was collected, I processed it in a variety of ways to transform it into music, from feeding it to synthesizers as raw MIDI information to creating complex generative music programs in Pure Data and Max. The resulting noise formed the foundation around which much of Calling Whitetails to a Tuned Bow was based.”

As for “Birds” itself? “It’s the album’s opening statement and serves to tease what’s to come throughout the rest of the album; layers of collapsing instrumentation collide with otherworldly electronic noise over the course of epic-length pieces. This record contains a lot of surprises, but ‘Birds’ teases a few early on.”


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