Sifting through the already splintered remains of his last great Pumice album, Pebbles, Stefan Neville once again gives the fine-toothed comb to the basest elements of pop music and the dustiest remnants of lo-fi’s tape hiss tapestries. Quo, the result of this archeology, is easily as solid an effort as its predecessor. Neville cobbles together catchy British Invasion power chords and commune folk spat through ratty guitars, percussion that sounds as though sampled from a skipping CD, accordions beamed in from two-centuries-old sea shanties and etches it all on the oldest, most worn vinyl he can find.
While lo-fi in most respects is declining as an aesthetic, Neville goes out of his way to elevate it to an art form. He accomplishes this through an utter lack of pretension and a heavy focus on eclecticism and sound manipulation; tape hiss isn’t an automatic stamp of authenticity for him. On an album of crystalline production, there’s no way the Animal-Collective-gone-punk reverb/distortion mess of “Fort” would be allowed within miles of the comparatively stately John Fahey-esque instrumental “Sick Bay Duvet,” let alone the drunken Muppet waltz “Dogwater.” On here, they’re all imbued in one way or another with similar pock marks — unrestrained feedback, asylum vocals, electronic chatter — and audible cassette tape scars. It’s hard to make good music sound simultaneously ugly, pretty, and innovative, but it seems like Pumice is actually the Rosetta Stone for cracking the code to give us all three.
Soft Abuse: www.softabuse.com