Gastr del Sol – 20 Songs Less 7”
Teen Beat, 1993
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Gastr del Sol’s line-up on this 7” is more impressive than the actual music. Here we have Squirrel Bait’s David Grubbs, the indomitable Jim O’Rourke on guitar, founding Tortoise member Bundy K. Bundy, and long time Tortoise drummer Jim McEntire. This is Gastr del Sol’s second release and their first with O’Rourke. The music is haunting, disjointed, and built around aimless acoustic guitars. I’m a big fan of Jim O’Rourke’s acoustic guitar based solo albums (opposed to the crazy noise based ones) so I have that to latch onto as I face these pretty straight-up experimental tracks. The A-side is quite a bit wilder than the B-Side, featuring a few moments where the sound cuts out that are reminiscent of your shitty headphones cutting out because the headphone jack on your iPod is busted. I’m sure you are familiar with that sensation. That said, I much prefer the spaced out B-side with its gentle guitar strums and audio clips of children playing in a park meeting up with the distant electronics in the dense background. There are some insane, jazz-fueled drum bits here and I think they last all of ten seconds. It’s rooted in that weird, avant-garde/post-rock/post-hardcore/math rock era that is effectively a total mystery to me outside of Spiderland, the first Squirrel Bait record and cursory listens to Codeine, Big Black, and all that stuff that was touted by the great Chicago record labels in the mid-90s (Touch-and-Go, Drag City) with the east coast contingent of avant-pop/punk held down by Teen Beat and Dischord. It’s a weird world that I am only loosely acquainted with and fortunately I’ve got plenty of time to dig into all of that stuff at a later date (sooner rather than later, considering that I have Teen Beat and Drag City LP compilations in my stack of LPs awaiting write-ups).