When Built To Spill wanted to find out what their music sounded like they locked themselves in Doug Martschs garage. Without a tentative conclusion or even a hypothesis the four members began to experiment. Their collaborative efforts lasted seasons and yielded dozens of hours of ADAT tape. The album You In Reverse documents the newest branch of Built To Spills chaotic, yet elegant evolution.
Doug Martsch formed Built To Spill in 1992. His intention was to sustain a project that would involve a rotating cast of musicians to record albums and tour. The first incarnation of Built To Spill included Doug, Brett Netson, and Ralf (Youtz). Recording in the middle of the night in order to get free studio time, they assembled 1993s Ultimate Alternative Wavers. For a few years and a few records band members came and went. In 1996, while recording the album Perfect From Now On (their Warner Bros. Records debut), Doug found a rhythm section he could not relinquish: Brett Nelson and Scott Plouf. This line-up toured and made records with additional guest musicians Brett Netson and Sam Coomes. In 1999, after the release of Keep It Like A Secret, Jim Roth joined the band as live co-guitarist.
In the five years since the bands most recent effort Ancient Melodies Of The Future was released, Built To Spill took an eighteen-month vacation. When the group returned to work, the line-up included Jim Roth as a core member. This foursome started jamming and recording their hours-long musical explorations. According to Doug, they had no idea what kind of music they wanted to make.
You In Reverse arrives as the most collaborative record in the bands thirteen-year history. To a large extent, each musician wrote his own parts. Half of the finished material incorporates segments the band wrote together during jam sessions.
Doug did bring in a few songs ready to go. Tracks like Liar and Saturday were pretty much there when the band learned them, while Goin Against Your Mind and Traces are full of riffs discovered during musical research. Dougs private writing process then allowed him to meld favorite spontaneous moments with composed transitions and intricate melodies.
With a batch of songs in hand, the goal became to keep the recording simple and stripped down. The band wanted to retain the impromptu, organic feel of their jams. Rather than Dougs former reliance on extensive overdubs, the group tried to capture loose and live moments, letting each individual musicians talents be more accurately represented. Instead of a broad, atmospheric sweep, this record sounds natural. It resonates with relationships, the way the band as a whole responds to music and to each other. Being the new guy, Jim Roth appreciated this approach. To Jim, they were striving to see what the band could be, the four of us. Now we can see the potential. These new songs are just starting to scratch the surface. Expressing his connection to music as that of both craftsman and artist, he considers each composition to be like a painting or a sculpture, its own thing.
As a discrete creation the record relies on more than good chemistry and Dougs expansive writing. The band decided to self-produce in order to put themselves in a new situation. Similar to the generative process, they felt a need to try something different. Just to see what would happen, Doug admits, Ive made enough records to know I could do this. Also, engineers take pride in their work and would not let it be too fucked up. When they chose Steve Lobdells Audible Alchemy studio, they happened upon another element of the album. Steve, being the musical person he is, just fell into the role of co-producer, Doug says, then recants, Its not even really produced. Its cleanly recorded and mixed. Its not slick.
At Audible Alchemy, they wound up chasing a 1960s sound. Sonically, Doug says, We wanted it to sound like classic rock or soula piece of vinyl. Both Steve and engineer Jacob Hall are audiophiles who love old records and are into those sorts of sounds. They used analog recording equipment and spent hours listening back to tracks for the smallest nuances. Steve (a member of Faust) also played space echo, guitar, vibes, and percussion on the record. He understood the songs and their parameters, making specific and well-considered contributions.
Other guest musicians include Quasis Sam Coomes on organ and longtime Built To Spill contributor Brett Netson on guitar. Partway through the making of this record, Netson officially joined Built To Spill as their fifth member and played guitar on three of the songs. His mind-melting solo on Just A Habit will remind longtime Built To Spill listeners of the amazing lead guitar tracks he laid down for Perfect From Now On.
When Doug is asked what he wants people to know about the album, he replies, I would rather not manipulate peoples opinions about it. Bassist Brett Nelson thinks this record is what everybody in the band would want it to sound like. Brett also mentions the different styles of songs, anything from New Wave to Reggae breakdowns. While many influences and song structures arise and dissolve, none dominates the overall force of the album.
The songs are haunting rather than catchy. Each musical thought is surprising and complete. Dougs lyrics hint at politics, but could also be personal. As usual, the words lining the songs are neither directive nor dogmatic. Rational thoughts are constantly sacrificed to the metric and melodic needs of each song. No message blares forth. And yet, its understood.
One-man-band project of Montreal based songwriter Jordan Minkoff. Writing and performing on a mid 80’s Yamaha organ, Wetface douses bright and ambitiously crafted pop music with layers of wonky digital strings and orchestration.
When Boise three-piece Blood Lemon — singer/guitarist Lisa Simpson (Finn Riggins, Treefort Music Fest), singer/bassist Melanie Radford (Built to Spill, Marshall Poole) and percussionist Lindsey Lloyd (Tambalka) — formed, in 2018, out of a medley of mutual admiration, a cover band called Mostly Muff and a unanimous love for heavy riffs and 90s Riot Grrrl music, they had no idea they’d be writing a perfect soundtrack to kick off 2021. What they did know was that they were eager to play music with their fellow women; they wanted a sound informed by 90s stalwarts like Pixies, Hole and The Breeders; and they were eager to get heavier and more political with their music.
“If you have Sleater-Kinney filed next to Sleep in your record collection, Blood Lemon is a rock ’n’ roll hybrid you may not have considered, but will more than likely enjoy.” – The AV Club
The resulting record, Blood Lemon’s self-titled debut, is a flinty 40-minute affair that tackles subjects like the inner journey of one song’s narrator toward becoming a whistleblower (“Whistleblower”) and running a toxic person out of town (“Burned”) with equal clarity and musical chops. Throughout, environmental (in)action is a theme that recurs. “Leave the Gaslight On” was inspired by Greta Thunberg’s speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit and the political and economic realities (i.e. capitalism) that have led America not to take it seriously. And “Black-Capped Cry” — a deft, heavy track that includes a bass riff inspired by the call of the black-capped chickadee — skewers both the lifestyle of limitless consumption and white colonialism. That tightness of focus in songwriting is well matched by production from Z.V. House of Boise’s Rabbitbrush Audio, a collaborator whose understanding of genre and ear for sonic layering burnished the band’s Post-Riot Grrrl sound.
“Tackling the modern state of discontent through topics like climate change, American politics, social justice, and navigating adulthood as women, Blood Lemon have deftly created their own gripping alternative sound and vision.” – The Big Takeover
All three of Blood Lemon’s members are classically trained musicians, with decades of experience between them — so yeah, they’ve been around a while. And as they live and work within Boise’s scene, which is re-energizing while also responding to the lessons of #MeToo, they take pride in the representation they embody. “It’s important that music not only be about The Youth,” Lisa says. And Mel talks glowingly of first seeing The Breeders live, “not caring about anything onstage other than having fun — not being cute, not showmanship, nothin’, just enjoying it for what it is.”
Listening to the record, it’s clear the ladies of Blood Lemon have brought that same ethos to writing and recording their debut. Their emphasis on reveling in each others’ company while bringing A-level musicianship is the perfect counterweight to the record’s headier themes. They seriously shred through tracks like “Master Manipulator” — which the band mapped on a whiteboard while recording to make sure they didn’t forget any of the collection of Mel’s riffs the song is constructed from — without ever sinking into self-seriousness. Coming out of 2020, you couldn’t ask for a more apt soundtrack than Blood Lemon’s cathartic good time.