The Red Krayola Red Gold [EP]

[Drag City; 2006]

Rating: 2.5/5

Although The Red Krayola's output has been at-best erratic since signing to Drag
City Records (and, one supposes, throughout their entire history), the most
recent incarnation of the group has perhaps been spurred into action by a burst
of creativity. Earlier this year, The Red Krayola released Introduction, their first
long-player since 1999's Fingerpainting.

The Red Gold EP, which is really more of a mini-album than an
extended-play single per se, is the second Red Krayola release this year
— an accomplishment that is no mean feat in and of itself.

Throughout the band's 40-year history and ever-changing lineup, the only
constant is longstanding singer/songwriter Mayo Thompson, whose gruff,
southern-fried vocal delivery is a Red Krayola trademark.
Currently, the group's lineup includes Tortoise drummer/post-rock producer
extraordinaire John McIntyre, and the structure of the Red Gold EP, even
more so than on Introduction, demonstrates the band's evolution into an
unambiguously avant-garde indie rock powerhouse. Unlike Introduction's inclination

toward succinct pop structure, Red Gold favors the instrumental side of
the band, with Thompson's vocals being significantly downplayed (half of the
record's six songs are instrumentals). However, it's not exactly to the detriment of
the recording that Thompson's vocals and most notably lyrics play second fiddle
to the instrumental pieces. On Red Gold, each of Thompson's three vocal tracks feature oddly
half-formed, stream-of-consciousness lyrics (which are sometimes frustratingly
simplistic to the point of cringe-worthiness) that almost sound as if they were
improvised off the cuff. Furthermore, Thompson's lazy, heavily inflected Texas
drawl seems jarringly out of place, juxtaposed as it is against the music, which
bears the heady influence of European cabaret music and chamber jazz, replete
with curious instrumentation such as accordion, harpsichord, shuffling jazz
beats, and the like.

The Red Gold EP is better considered as a somewhat more inventive, if not
slightly schizophrenic, companion piece to Introduction. The EP is indeed
connected to that album via the brooding, almost gothic "Easy Street," which is
an instrumental version (however unrecognizable it may be from the original) of
Introduction's "Greasy Street." It's probably a safe bet to say that any
Red Krayola release is diverse and unconventional enough to at least warrant a
listen, and this is certainly the case with Red Gold. In its own way,
it's more interesting than its predecessor, and to be fair the musicianship is
captivatingly bizarre. Considering the infrequency and relative fastidiousness
with which The Red Krayola record music, however, it's baffling that Mayo
Thompson opted to issue such a brief and fractured release, rather than fleshing
out these admittedly idiosyncratic tracks. On the whole, the Red Gold EP
is a curiosity that, while highly uneven, is worth seeking out if for no other
reason than its sheer eccentricity.

1. Paris
2. Oh I Was Bad
3. Easy Street
4. The Essence of Life
5. The Well
6. Bong Bong

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