For whatever reason, Eric Chenaux favors album titles with negative connotations. His obtuse, yet highly rewarding debut was titled Dull Lights and now he’s following it up with Sloppy Ground. This time around the title hits a little closer to an accurate description of the work contained within. Chenaux’s aesthetic is inherently shambling and about as far from polished as music can get, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t endearing material to be found. He and his backing musicians revel in taking the splintered shards of sound and fall, almost by chance, into song.
The disc’s opener “Am I Lovely” tumbles through percussion with little rhythm, and guitars with slight melody, all supported by Chenaux’s surprisingly affecting and laconic vocals. The accidental beauty he happens upon in this song feels incredibly honest mainly because there is no overt calculation in its wanderings. Things start to coalesce a little more on “Have I Lost My Eyes,” a modern take on Stephen Foster’s homegrown 1800s folk marches. Kyle Field’s Little Wings is another obvious sonic mile marker, especially on “Love Don’t Change,” which, after a fairly lazy-day intro, will surely harsh the mellow of some poor hippies with its punchy guitar leads and drum fills.
There’s a jam band, communal quality to much of Chenaux and crew’s sound trips throughout the disc, but it doesn’t approach the showboat noodling of genre stereotypes like Phish. Instead, it falls closer to Destroyer’s great Destroyer’s Rubies. Much like Destroyer’s Rubies did for Dan Bejar, Sloppy Ground will hopefully cement Eric Chenaux’s status as one of Canada’s better songwriting weirdos.
Constellation Records: www.cstrecords.com