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Wooden Wand – James And The Quiet LP/CD
Since parting company with psych-folk backing group The Vanishing Voice, Wooden Wand's James Toth could so easily have turned out as another bog-standard singer-songwriter hiding behind a freaky improv entourage. Fortunately, last year's "Second Attention" album proved Toth as being more than able to make the distance based on songs alone, devoid of the twenty minute bin shed percussion workouts, or the clouds of lo-fi hiss that accompanied previous solo outings like Harem Of The Sundrum & Witness Figg. James & The Quiet finds Toth making a pretty comprehensive departure from his obscure beginnings, recruiting Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo as contributors (with Ranaldo even going so far as to take on production duties). The result of these raised stakes is arguably the clearest, most confident statement to have come from the Wooden Wand camp yet. Lyrically, Toth's writing continues in the vein of the quasi-religious weirdness that characterised Second Attention, but rather than sounding like an emission from some drugged-up hippy sect, this stuff has more in common with smarter, more outlandish, Dylan-esque lyrical outpourings. In fact, Dylan's influence is all over 'Spitting At The Camera', which benefits greatly from Jessica Toth's vocal harmonies and some simple yet effective chiming piano chords. It's all over in a painfully short two minutes, but there's much more to come, like the New Testament psych-country blues of 'We Must Also Love The Thieves' and the wonderful 'Invisible Children'. Ecstatic Peace seem to be especially good at facilitating leading lights of the American underground to come up with a standard of work they had hitherto only hinted at. In addition to this breathtakingly good Wooden Wand outing you can expect similarly bold developments from Magik Markers and MV/EE just around the corner. Significantly though, James & The Quiet confirms that these artists can break from their small scale DIY beginnings without having to trade in their underground sensibilities and outsider individualism. Highly recommended.
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