Thursday, May 29, 2014

Track By Track - DUENDE's Mezcal

1.) "One More Time"

Duende's new album opens with a storm of a song called "One More Time," a boogie-sledge-strutter that sings of that special bloodshot, sweat-beaded bedlam we all have found ourselves caught in, one weekend or another, where the songs just don't end and friends keep piling in around the turntables, assuring we're always willing and ready to whirl around just one more time, provided the wine bottle ain't empty yet and the stylus needle ain't worn out.

Singer/guitarist Jeff Howitt:
"One More Time started around a fictional weekend that never ended. Starting over at Pookie (from The Beggars) house then over at Ryan Dillaha's (front man for The Miracle Men) where we shout out a bunch of our favorite recording artists. Then end up at Loving Touch where we've held court with our monthly showcase DUENDESDAY. We even work in our long time Friends of Rock 'n' Roll, The Oscillating Fan Club, "Party Hat" literally into the outro. I always loved that the early Rock 'n' Roll songs were mostly about People and Places not some vague emotional situation. Something you could see in your imagination."

2.) "Mezcal"

Track two is also the "title track" for the LP, Mezcal, which will be released on Saturday via Bellyache Records. Guitarist Joel ("Jelly Roll") McCune channels the spirits of both Link Wray and the Ventures and then jettisons the thing about 8-miles-high into spacier, more psych-freaked territories with some groovy flits of noise. Oh, and that's the legendary McKinley Jackson on the organ, adding integral soulful ambiance.

Guitarist Joel McCune:
"I have a very difficult time sorting through my musical inspirations and translating them coherently. I have always had great reverence and respect for the folk forms: country, rockabilly, bluegrass, blues, jazz. You know, the oral history of song and the language of music as it is passed from generation to generation. But, many people listen to the blues and feel there is a lot of plagiarism, which really isn't true. It is a language. There are certain rules. Certain times when you use a musical adjective rather than a musical preposition. They all know where the commas go and where the quotation marks are inserted. It isn't plagiarism, it is respect of the form, and it is your responsibility to figure out how to get your own idiosyncrasy into it. When I say blues, I mean the original, old timey blues. Skip James, Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Not Stevie Ray...
   On the other side of the coin, I love music that destroys tradition. Sonic Youth, early Butthole Surfers, punk, post punk, Neubauten, noise...."

3.) Herstory

Wordless backing vocals imbue their haunting, distorted melody into your ears as this otherwise slower tempo rock song starts to slime its way into those noisier, cathartic territories that McCune referenced above. The guitars become rusty buzzsaws over steady drums that shoulder their way through a storm of feedback, while the overlay of different vocal parts, high falsettos, mid-range and low growls, certainly gets pretty trippy.

"Probably about as close as we can get to Doo-Wop at this point! Started with a riff I played at various tempos until Laura and I jammed on it one day and she ended up "Ba-Bop-Bop-Bop-Ba" singing the riff back and it clicked. This song really depends on the elemental and oozing fuzz dynamic. Where on the past few releases we honed in on the arranging of parts in the songs this time around our strategy revolved around the Sonic features. The lyrics also play off gender themes and power. History is written by the victors but Herstory is written by who knows the Truth."

"Our philosophy was to capture and document what happened in the studio on a particular day or days, and let that document stand. Very few overdubs, very few takes, we weren't trying to make the perfect record. To me, I believe trying to achieve perfection in the studio will only capture some of the most lifeless and rote performances ever! We went for the opposite."

4.) Devil Do

Those organs come back in for this Holly Golightly cover and we play with tempo - demonstrating Duende's characteristic here-and-there, this-but-also-that, unpredictability, going from a shuffle, to a steadier toe-tapper, to a faster, knees-up kicker.

"We arranged this specifically for Theatre Bizarre last year and it has stayed in our set. Their has always been the Light and the Dark. Perceptions of Good and Evil. Sides. Always have to have a Side, right? The Devil is classic in theme. I've never written a song with heavy handed morals but this song and it's nature spoke to us as a performance piece that accelerates with each verse. 

5.) He Meant No Harm

Devil Do fades away...and we fade back into this one, with two overlaying guitars--one reverberating dazzling with a lilting riff over another grinding an agitated, sizzling rhythm, while bass and drums start subtly accelerating into a punchy overdrive. It's another instrumental, but a bit more cinematic, like shunting a chrome, flame-wreathed Semi down a gravelly, Route-66-type road under ultraviolet skies and evading varying apocalyptic circumstances threatening from behind...a chase... Ah, the inherent drama that Duende can evoke in their strange, psychedelic compositions.

"....and it's our first fade out! We recorded DEVIL DO and this together and decided to split the two sides of the record with them. Again some have taken this song to represent dual gender perspectives. Most songs if you listen narrate from the masculine..."

6.) Damn

The aerodynamic, burn the place down, country-punk tantrum - just two minutes, surfing in and out over voraciously wavy guitars and a rhythm section that, for the first time on the record, finally looses its cool (in the best way possible) and starts joining in on the musical melee.

"We have stretched out songs to over 10 minutes. Churned repetition and mined and opined the atonal. This however became an exercise in pure muscular DUENDE. The ringing out Hard Days Night chord at the beginning. The extra rolled out drumming at the end. I get my foot in the door to spit some lyrics and get it out before the song squeezes it shut."

Duende! began as a philosophy of sort of lawlessness within a structure musically speaking. It is a very liberating way to approach music, but it requires attentiveness and listening."

7.) Burn This Town

This song was recorded during the sessions for their previous record, Murder Doesn't Hide The Truth. Oh, the echoey distortion, the dazzling reverb, the relentless march of the drums, the steady, if feedback shaded, heartbeat of the bass. This is the song in which you lose certainty of which way is up, which way was down... Therapeutic--yes, but a blend of breathing meditation and the sting of electro-shock. Ten minutes long? A blur of guitars, like a slow-motion cyclone. By the end, one did I get here?

"...churning repetition and mined the atonal stretches... The lyrics, in all their apocalyptic gaze,are pulled from News Paper headlines and arranged as William Burrough's suggested in his cut-up theory and practice. Just as you can't take another dip back down to see the scorched Earth the song instrumentally shifts into a sensation of relief and builds until the ground has stopped shaking and you have only what you were left with, and that's different for everyone."

What you were left with...

Mezcal was recorded by Dave Feeny (of Gangplank Records) at Ferndale's Tempermill Studios.

"I live in walking distance from Tempermill studios, and can honestly say that Duende! has no need or desire to record anyplace else. Dave Feeny has become the essential ingredient in our records, the File' to our Gumbo!! He gets us, knows how to get the best performance from us, will give as much or as little input as is necessary, and is just the easiest cat to get along with anywhere! "

May 31st - - 8/9pm @ The New Dodge Lounge in Hamtramck

Caveman Woodman & Bam Bam Moss celebrate the release of debut 7" (also on Bellyache Records--with art/design by Annette DeLorean)

Duende will also perform, showcasing songs from Mezcal (with artwork by Tato Caraveo and layout/design by Slasher Dav)

The inimitable Beggars will be joining the party, as well.

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