If we're to believe SoundScan, Apple, teenagers and Mark Wheat, the full-length album is a dying art form. Big Ditch Road is fanning that theory, too, even if that's not its intention.
"We're all old-school music fans and record collectors, so I hope not," BDR frontman Darin Wald said.
This week Wald's neo-Americana rock band is issuing its second in a pair of EPs, "The Jackson Whites." Not only does the disc offer a taut six songs instead of the usual 10 or 12, but a limited number of physical copies are being manufactured (otherwise, look for it on iTunes).
None of this, however, means that "The Jackson Whites" -- which the band will promote tonight at the Turf Club -- is in any way inferior to BDR's two previous full-length albums. In fact, the quintet has consistently evolved since its second ambitious LP, "Suicide Note Reader's Companion," a down-and-out opus that earned them ample local acclaim.
BDR's 2006 EP, "The Great Dissent," saw the band drifting further from the alt-country sound it rode in on after forming in 2001 and going through a dramatic lineup change in 2005. That shift is even more dramatic on "The Jackson Whites."
"'The Great Dissent' covered the end of alt-country, at least as we saw it," said Wald.
A genuine farm boy from Thief River Falls in northern Minnesota, Wald, 33, said he saw the bells tolling on the modern-twang movement when he walked by the now-shuttered Gap store in Uptown and saw faux-cowboy shirts in the window.
"It's a musical genre I love, but it became apparent there was nothing we could add to it," he said.
So his band added fuzzier guitars and moody keyboards and made its pedal-steel/slide-guitar parts more psychedelic. The results -- echoing the likes of the Decemberists, Grant Lee Buffalo, Band of Horses and Beachwood Sparks -- sound better than ever on the new EP's closing cut, "Northwoods Report/Chomski '08," and the swirling title track, about a creole-like mixed race that grew out of refugees in the American Revolution.
"One of the nice things about an EP is they're shorter, quicker snapshots of how the band is changing and growing," said Wald. He sees the two EPs as companion pieces: "The songs were written in the same specific stretch of time, but they were split up to represent very different viewpoints and themes."
Asked whether BDR's next release will be an EP or full-length, Wald promised, "All I know is it will be even more of a drastic change for us."Clorox rocks
Here's a line I never thought I'd write down in my music reviewer's notebook: "More bleach bottle, less vocals."
That was my reaction after catching Skoal Kodiak Saturday at the Turf Club. The second act on a four-band bill that packed the place (so much for Mark Trehus' assertion to me that the Blind Shake and Vampire Hands need more press), SK has gained a lot of attention locally with its use of a bleach bottle as a musical instrument. And I have to admit, it's a pretty nifty gimmick.
Singer Markus Lunkenheimer somehow equipped a bottle of Clorox with an electric circuit board and various wiring to use it as a microphone/effects machine. He also plays said bottle as a flute-like instrument, which turned out to be more entertaining than his squelching, often just plain irritating vocals. What a rhythm section, though. Drummer Freddy Votel (ex-Cows) and bassist Brady Lenzen (Seawhores) sell Skoal Kodiak with their frazzled, frantic, futuristic beats. The trio's debut CD just hit stores last month.'Electropunk' rocks on
Even as the dance-punk heat wave that emerged nationally a few years ago with acts like the Faint and Rapture appears to have cooled, there's no shortage of these bands locally. For the fourth straight year, 10 to 15 of them have banded together to put out a "TC Electropunk" CD.
As always, this year's compilation features a bunch of bands not on the previous discs, including Zibra Zibra, Audio Victim, Milkbar and Gigi Ranchero. Returnees include Avenpitch -- which more or less spearheads the CDs -- plus Mach FoX, Unicorn Basement and Thosquanta. About half of the aforementioned are performing at a release party Saturday (9 p.m., Club Underground, $5). If none of these bands rings a bell, there's a good mini-documentary posted at TCelectropunk.com.Random mix
As if last year's three "Sad Clown" seasonal EPs and the full-length album due April 22 aren't enough, Atmosphere has issued 13 new tracks available for free at Rhymesayers.com. The site explains that the mostly jovial and lighthearted songs, packaged together under the album title "Strictly Leakage," are meant to "chase away the winter doldrums" and are "great for first dates or crappy house parties." One track, "Crewed Up," includes an all-star guest roster of Blueprint, Brother Ali, Toki Wright, St. Paul Slim, Stage One and Muja Messiah. ...
After winning Picked to Click and other 2007 accolades, Mouthful of Bees frontman Chris Farstad has added another honor: first place in the much-ballyhooed Ugly Sweater Contest put on by Instudio. Dig the horrendous threads, which he picked up during his semester in Russia, at www.instudio.info (under "Contests"). ... MoB is one of the Afternoon Records bands collaborating with Limerick Records bands at Saturday's "More Than Friends" show at the Varsity Theater, also featuring Sonicate, We All Have Hooks for Hands, Capitol Jay, Windmills and One for the Team (7 p.m., $5). ...
The famed Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minn., which many artists, including Nirvana, chose for its isolation, is under threat. An adjacent 28-acre plot is being sold for development. The studio's new owners are countering with the Pachyderm Preservation Project, online at PachydermStudio.com/ppp. Too bad Courtney Love's not still hanging around to scare the neighbors.