The Nashville quintet Waterfall Wash manages to successfully walk a tightrope, making spirited rock-pop with a touch of gospel and a hint of country that has a broad appeal without dumbing it down and being insipid.
Its debut 6-song EP, Foreign Chords, is finally available as a digital download on Bandcamp after four years in the making, having been tracked in four different studios; the result is a release that has obviously been sweated over, benefiting from an attention to detail and a insistence to constantly sound vital and stirring.
Local listeners may recognize the name of singer Michael Roddy, a former Chattanoogan and front man of the dancey synth-pop outfit Taxicab Racers; here, he sings with his honest pop vocal style, without affectations or unnecessary studio processing.
After the shimmering and brief “Prelude,” with small details like subtle backwards guitar notes, the EP takes off with “Currents,” marked with gospel and folk influenced vocal harmonizing, bringing to mind Fleet Foxes but with more optimism; it builds with pounding drums and hopeful strums, constructing a hearty, full sound, and with a tiny grin, it ends with the strum of an autoharp.
The EP’s title track is a bouncy and immediately likeable number, with crunchy chords and a few unusual timbres lurking in the electric guitar parts; the one-minute track “Your Wave” is more than a trifle, with the acoustic guitar and vocals being accompanied by fuzzy and faint electric guitars, brushed drums and electronic percolations.
The EP’s peak arrives on the track “Panama,” which rocks out and doesn’t hold back, except for a breakdown section with mandolin; guitars wail, cymbals are taxed and bass drum beats propel the song like a locomotive. Finally, “Visions” closes the EP with some enhanced balladry marked by ardent strums and rousing harmonizing, finishing a release with an infectious energy that is hard to dislike.
John Butcher & Andy Moor
Experiments with a Leaf
In the world of free improvisation—that is, improvising with no particular genre in mind—players can sometimes fall back on a “bag of tricks” with various techniques or instant strategies to keep things moving along.
So, it’s refreshing to hear a musician who can always surprise and impress, even with a familiarity of that performer’s musical personality. One such musician is British saxophonist John Butcher, who not only has a virtuosic command of his instrument but also has a seemingly infinite palette with which to work.
On the new album Experiments with a Leaf, recorded live in a cathedral in Switzerland in October 2013, Butcher and electric guitarist Andy Moor both provoke each other yet mostly work toward synthesis, building new sounds that complement each other in complex, stimulating and satisfying ways.
Moor is best known as a member of the Dutch post-punk band The Ex, and that band’s fruitful collaborations with Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya are one example of how versatile Moor can be.
On “Fantasy Downsize,” Moor accompanies Butcher’s fluttering bird noises with woozy low notes and scratches before he stabs with harmonics and atonal mini-blasts; the mood is one of playful and curious confusion, with kissing noises and the tense wringing of notes.
“Joy is the Headlight” begins with bright flashes of sax melodies before scurrying away from recognizable, hummable tunes using frantic runs; the track ends with a half-minute of chilling near-silence to cleanse the palate, with barely audible sounds of what sounds like dangling strings rustling.
On the 11-minute “The Tongue Is a Flame,” Moor uses a slide and alternates between low buzzes and inebriated high notes, and later, he generates ambient tones while Butcher’s desperate squawks reverberate gloriously in the cathedral space; notably, Butcher also manages to make his saxophone sound exactly like amplifier feedback.
While Butcher is the master improviser here, Moor holds his own and has the discipline and creativity to set aside his post-punk tendencies to help formulate an engrossing canvas of abstraction.