Red Krayola Fingerpointing

[Drag City; 2008]

Experimental rock, the term most frequently used to categorize Red Krayola, finds its varying lexicon by referencing disparate disciplines like noise, modern composition, and free jazz within the framework of pop/rock. Along with an ever-changing cast of supporters, followers, and contemporaries, Mayo Thompson has worked at lengths presenting his distinct approach to this form of music for over 40 years. His artistic resonance is felt to varying degrees, from the post-punk movement through to the recent clatter and discord of groups such as Paavoharju and Kemialliset Ystävät on Finnish label Fonal. Thompson's work, however, found its most receptive audience during the surge of Chicago post-rock practitioners of the ’90s, which not surprisingly landed him on Drag City.

Fingerpointing is a previously unreleased version of Fingerpainting — note the 'A' instead of the 'O' — which features the original, 11-member recorded album as translated through the mixing details of one Jim O'Rourke. Apparently shelved by Thompson upon hearing the mix, he has since warmed to the revisioning, and has seen fit to allow its release. Comprising five "Freeform Freakouts" and five "proper" songs presented in one seamless mix, Fingerpointing clocks in tidily shy of 35 minutes. Utilizing the original session recordings, O'Rourke re-layers, re-structures, allows interstices, and creates a version of Fingerpainting that is decidedly his. Thompson's vocals recess slightly into the background and, in the case of "In My Baby's Ruth," bleed into the digital detritus of the reworking, allowing O'Rourke's shifting fragments to assume the greater role. Rhythmic elements remain important to Thompson's original design, but they find themselves accentuated with added snatches of noise and treatments pulling them far enough into the altered field of vision.

However, compared to artists from the relative time frame — for example, avant digital saboteur Oval or politically militant field-recording group Ultra Red — the more aggressive segments on this album seem downright polite. Even with the "Freeform Freakout" titles, there is very little here suggesting the power their names carry or speaking from the solid foundation of Thompson's or even O'Rourke's oeuvre, of which there is much. Not even viewing the release as a purely pop/rock statement is enough to contextualize the album as anything particularly memorable.

Essentially, O'Rourke's mix does not reach forth as a profound improvement upon the original; it remains close-by, a companion piece — nothing greater than, nothing lesser than, an equal-by-different measure. It would seem then that the stronger experiments for both Red Krayola and O'Rourke were left for other efforts, and what remains is a rather indistinct recording. Still, while not exactly a revelation neither then nor now, it is a document that is worth adding to your collection if you were a fan of Fingerpainting.

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