Friday, 8 February 2013

Hound - Spirits Are Appearing (album review)

Hound is an ever-evolving project, the brainchild of Pet The Preacher frontman Christian Hede Madsen.  It was obvious from the band's (now inactive) facebook page updates that he puts a lot of thought into it.  That is to say, he puts a lot of feeling into it.  With constant experimentation and ever-changing lineups (solo, full band and stripped down lineups) at gigs, Hound remains a work in progress.  For example, here's a post on the project's official website:
"Well, I played the first show under the "HOUND" name.
I played a few solo songs and then the full band came in. To provoke and play with people´s perception of the band, I introduced a 27min. long instrumental piece called "Tidings Of Truth/Tidings Of Pain". The band was great and it all went well...
But it didnt feel right. It didnt feel like HOUND. Lesson learned.
The idea was the blues. The gritty rockNroll and the fast record.
I will get back to that.

More grit. More space. And simple songs.
The shows to come will be solo, duo or trio.
Finding the heart of the project.
But vanity is always a lurking shadow and it is easier to make noise, than let silence speak.
Fuck it."
The mercurial conception of the artist, ever-expanding, ever-changing, ever-evolving, ever-growing, until it threatens to blow up in the artist's face.

For the nonce it has, however, manifested itself in a 7 song mini-album, released near the end of last year.  Well, if the idea was the blues, Madsen shows focus and an deep appreciation for rock and roll roots music. Seven tracks of electrified blues, accompanied for the most part by nothing but his own voice.  Jacob Bredahl sits behind the drumkit on the three middle-of-the-record tracks, "Ghost World Hobo", "No Good" and "Evil".  Four unaccompanied tracks bookend the three guitar and drum tracks, two on each end.

Slide guitar dominates from the start, coming to the fore in "No Good", a track that features Madsen feeding off of Bredahl's bare bones time keeping.  There are very few more electrifying moments as a musician than when a guitarist and drummer work out a slow blues and find that pausey funk rhythm.  While the natural tendency at times is to showcase skill, oftentimes a stripped down approach generates more excitement and energy.  The energy comes from the 'hanging moments', the empty spaces between licks and hits and the interplay that derives therefrom.  Madsen finds a way to induce excitement in the first two solo tracks as well, "Bad Men Riding" which flows seamlessly into "Pathfinder".

Because of the fact that it is mostly a guitar and voice record which features drums on only three tracks (two full songs and an 'intro') it feels a bit like Pete Townshend's first couple solo albums 'Happy Birthday' and 'I Am' written and recorded for his guru Meher Baba.  The final two tracks, "Sense" and "The Troll Ascends" are still electrified blues but get away from slide guitar, creating an even more spare accompaniment to Madsen's storytelling.

All told, the album is sequenced well, creating a solo-drums-solo structure that highlights the final two tracks in an interesting way.  The funk that came with the guitar/drum interplay is lost, obviously, but what is gained is the listener's readiness for the final two tracks, having been primed expectation-wise by the opening two cuts.  This allows the listener to focus more on the dynamics of the songs brought about by Madsen's chord phrasing (see the wonderfully titled "The Troll Ascends").

'Spirits Are Appearing' should appeal to anybody with a love or appreciation of delta blues, rock n roll roots music and Madsen's band Pet the Preacher.  While the vibe is different, the guitar sound of PTP songs like "Hell" and "The Devil's Door" is very much alive and given extra heavy emphasis on this release by virtue of it's lack of outside competition by other instruments.  Those who enjoyed Wino & Conny Ochs or Nate Hall's solo stuff should also give this a try.

Highlights include: "No Good" and "Ghost World Hobo"

Rating: 3.5/5
Total Run Time: 26:53

From: Copenhagen, Denmark

Genre: Blues, Hard Rock, Folk, Western

Reminds me of: Black Keys, John Lee Hooker, Junior Kimbrough, Pete Townshend, Muddy Waters

Release Date: November 20, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Standing at the crossroads, guitar slung over the shoulder, fingers crossed, double cross plans at the ready

Better Review:
Soda Shop

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