Chas. Mtn. Hugs

[Western Vinyl; 2006]

Styles: lo-fi, freak folk, new weird america
Others: Devendra Banhart, No Neck Blues Band, Sunburned Hand of the Man

An unfortunate case of style over substance, Chas. Mtn. work better in theory than they do on recording. Vacillating between directionless noise pieces and chanty folk songs, Chas. Mtn., like much of their new weird brethren, seem to want to both root themselves to the ideal of authenticity in early folk recording and project themselves forward with cutting edge noisiness and avant garde posturing. It's a fine line for even the best to walk, and this greenhorn duo has a tough time with it. What often separates the wheat from the chaff in this arena is an abundance of musical ideas. In the best cases, these ideas seem to almost overwhelm the artist(s) and incite maelstroms of dense musical confusion alternated with the moments of sublime delicacy where songs emerge. Unfortunately, the Chas. boys don't have those characteristics. Rather, the noise moments come off as partially recorded ideas that never got fleshed out ("We're Evil, We're Jazz," "Nice Mug," "Jardin Cadaver," and others). In their songier sections ("Deep Safety" and "Friendly Skies" stand out), they can appear to be convincingly dedicated to the off-kilter folk aesthetic, mixing in punk ("Salad of Flies") and even some heaping helpings of psychedelic jamminess ("Agog Hallway"). But an overall inconsistency hinders the album from ever truly taking flight. With a little better execution, this could have been a nice new entry into the freak folk movement. Instead, it serves as a reminder that all subgenres of music, even those with the least commercial of intentions, can become sadly formulaic after only a short time.

1. We're Evil, We're Jazz
2. Deep Safety
3. Leveled Mez
4. Wheels of Space
5. Nice Mug
6. Nice Breeze Going
7. Cinematic, Unbearable
8. Salad of Flies
9. Headstripe Bitches
10. Jardin Cadaver
11. Friendly Skies
12. Straights Riff
13. Fly Over the City
14. Sodaz
15. Somewhat Still and Small
16. Agog Hallway