I remember finding the Good Willsmith Is The Food Your Family Eats Slowly tape at a record store in Seattle. It was one of those small, focused record stores where you won’t find a single Linda Ronstadt or Herb Alpert record, the kind of place where you have to sift through everything. And in a single box of tapes near the register was the Good Willsmith cassette from the band’s own Hausu Mountain label. It was the first and only time I can remember finding a contemporary music tape at a store. The format, for all its analog loyalty, is ironically reliant largely on computer screens as storefronts. I excitedly tried to explain all of this to the guy at the counter as I bought the tape, mostly just thinking aloud. He didn’t seem impressed, but thought the band name was kind of clever.
Discovering the tape unexpectedly seemed an appropriate way to “find” their music. Good Willsmith has always had a kind of researching feel to their music, and I’m not just referring to their 14 Years of Desperate Research release. The progression of their sound from song to song, show to show, or album to album has always paralleled a form of rhetorical analysis, wherein the recording and editing of the music itself is another step in the discovery of its own sound space, rather than an attempt at capturing an idealized song. In this regard, there is often little difference between the band’s live performance and recorded output. It’s a testament to the instinctual quality of improvisation between individual musicians creating in symmetry toward an exact common goal, a final filling of a song’s combined sound space occurring simultaneously with the musical artifact reaching the hands of a listener and being heard by outside ears in any format.
The Honeymoon Workbook, the new album from the Chicago-based trio (which includes TMT’s own Mukqs on low-end manipulation), steps closely in the footprints of the improvisational qualities of previous releases, but with a kind of cyclical nature that crests like the changing of the seasons, leaving its listeners in a kind of seasonal cognitive dissonance from the same seasons they’ve grown to expect and know. Still feeling the effects of chilly interludes as synthetic, spring colors melt anything piled beyond its own means, and the sun begins to create new colors in skin. And it feels like it could stretch out forever, but we all know its timeline. It’s written in the calendars of our computers, and it tells us what to expect when we look out the windows on this date, as if years of experiencing March weather hadn’t written expectation into our internal clocks. No matter how much we experiment and research, spending hours and days and years with the same objects, everything will always occur differently enough to hold our interest to the specific inconsistencies hidden underneath its persistence.
It’s an entire measure of the value in improvisation: that nothing really occurs twice, despite any attempts at mimicry through the setting of the knobs on the equipment, whether it be the oscillators on synthesizers or the settings on the chain of effect pedals carrying the softly strummed harmonies from guitars. The Honeymoon Workbook is an experiment, and what we hear is the results, written between the understanding of time-based variables, as something that exists from a datebook of events, every one of which held the potential for writing a natural law, but only as a pattern of numbers describing its findings within the overall sum of experimentation.