Russ Waterhouse – 1 Minute 2 Midnight (Drag City)

Front Cover

It starts with cold digital silence and ends with a field recording of what sounds like people milling about a train station. Sandwiched in between these two extremes lie Russ Waterhouse’s (formerly of Blues Control) latest album. I remember Waterhouse first popping on my radar around the turn of the century. I seem to remember spray painted cassettes arriving in the mail. A few years later, I recall catching Blues Control (a duo which featured Waterhouse along with partner Lea Cho) playing a local Scranton haunt sometime around 2009. Their record Local Flavor looked great on the merch table, and sounded even better on my turntable at home after the show.

With the aforementioned duo currently on an indefinite extended hiatus, Mr. Waterhouse stands alone again with his latest album 1 Minute 2 Midnight. Consisting of two side long explorations, what we have here is some prime one-man electro racket. The first side features “Hopewell,” a piece anchored by minimal rhythmic digital tics and glitches which gradually build in intensity to a white hot freak out while the second half’s “Too Many People” seems to blend field recordings and spacier electronic moves into a deeper ambient space. The whole thing flows like the work of an artist determined to obliterate the past, and ready to step out on the rocky grounds of a new uncertain path. Godspeed.

Buy the album via Drag City.

Bill MacKay – Fountain Fire (Drag City)

cover_1544126457352464Based on the sounds contained on Chicago-based avant-folkie Bill MacKay’s latest album Fountain Fire, it seems apparent he’s been racking up the miles both literally and figuratively.   It’s a dusty gem of an album that slowly reveals its treasures with repeated listening, and feels like a sprawling road trip across a new weird America with a transatlantic flight or two thrown in for good measure.

Album opener “Pre-California,” sets the table in a cinematic fashion, allowing a widescreen view of MacKay’s 6-string sprawl replete with walls of rumbling, and sliding guitars which evoke images of tectonic shifts, and primordial volcanic ooze.  It’s a mostly instrumental set, but the few tracks which utilize vocals are stunners; such as the Janschian English folk moves displayed on “Birds of May.”   It’s a timeless sounding set that hums with a crackling kinetic energy, even in its quieter and more contemplative moments.  Closing with the urgent and apocalyptic sounding “Dragon Country,” MacKay seems to evoke the sound of darkness descending with its nervy acoustic finger picking, walls of tremolo, and sneaky electric guitar lines.  Fountain Fire is an album that evokes powerful emotions and imagery almost entirely via MacKay’s masterful guitar work.  Just hop in the van, and let him do all the driving; it’s a trip worth taking.

Order the album via Drag City.