Walls Are Stuck
I freely admit to a near all-consuming distaste for the current crop of freak-folk. Too often it reeks of a genre too bogged down in affectation. What little exposure I’ve had to the Jewelled Antler collective — a sort of West Coast Elephant 6, but on more drugs, wearing more ponchos and growing more beards — hasn’t helped. The Skygreen Leopards’ latest album I found particularly grating, because it destroyed decent instrumentals with inane lyrics.
Franciscan Hobbies indulges in many of the current trend’s tropes, but handles them in a way that makes them sound far less contrived. Walls Are Stuck is much more of an experiment in pastoralisms and, best of all, remains unmarred by weak lines about woodland animals and abstract hippie-hood. It ends up playing much closer to the great UK rural post-rock movement (Movietone, Appendix Out). Much of the material hinges on droning Eastern instruments, field recordings and ambient sounds. The scratchy, aged feeling of the lo-fi recording adds to the rustic, rough-hewn vibe for which the group is aiming. Even the distorted hum that overtakes a handful of tracks feels appropriate, like an attempt to willfully obscure what could end up being too pristine of a melody. Tracks also start and stop at seemingly random moments, either before or after the natural point to do so has passed. While such deliberate sound manipulation/backwoods antics by a band based in a metropolis like San Francisco might seem gratuitous and excessive, it works surprisingly well. Walls Are Stuck is hardly an album that’s going to demand constant attention, but that doesn’t make it any less compelling. At the very least, it’s one album involving Glenn Donaldson that’s worth checking out.
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