Zachary Cale Noise of Welcome

[All Hands Electric; 2011]

Styles: indie rock, scenic alt-country
Others: Illuminations, The Stands, Ben Chasny, Fahey, anyone BUT Bright Eyes, Jack Rose

You know a dude who puts out great records (in this case, under the guise of All Hands Electric) and has fronted a fantastic band (Illuminations), and now he’s releasing a solo record, which he’s put his tender heart and soul into, and guess who he wants to review it? And guess who, in the heat of the moment, agrees to review it? It’s kind of a nightmare scenario because I’ve been burned this way before, but then I crack open Noise of Welcome and realize Zachary Cale wouldn’t do me like that. He’s still got that nasally voice that would be annoying if he were talking to you — annoying as FUCK — but when he sings, it somehow, someway, by some quirky coincidence of the human mind, sounds fantastic.

It’s been said elsewhere that there’s a shitload of folks in Austin who think they sound like Cale, but don’t. I couldn’t agree more. Quality indie rock with overtones of scenic alt-country, the bluesier, more rustic Red Red Meat/Califone stuff, Fahey, yadda-yadda and that whole bit is so rare I can only hearken back to The Stands, a band that popped up out of nowhere a half-decade back and had a similarly blessed vocalist and, yep, mixed Americana with rock so subtly you couldn’t see a trace of swirl; complete homogeny. They disappeared from my view after a record on World’s Fair. So what, right? But it’s strange: I hate Wilco so much, so very, very much (and in fact found that I Am Trying to Break Your Heart documentary to be akin to the widening of Jeff Tweedy’s already-large mouth, to the point where he couldn’t control what was coming out of it) that when I find an artist who approaches a similar formula successfully, I feel like I’ve accomplished something, as I’ve always wanted to feel about a record the way people say they feel about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

I’m not quite there with Noise of Welcome. It’s got all the elements of a powerful statement, and I’d pick it over just about any other record of its stripe released in 2011. But deep down I know this is just the beginning, so I’m keeping my most bombastic praise for the day when it’s warranted. What Noise does offer is nearly flawless execution of rusted future-country, from the meandering, weaving threads of soft acoustic guitar to the sensitively rendered percussion to the aforementioned tang of Cale’s coos and the self-tracked harmonies that accompany him. Flat-out, there’s not a bad song here, nor a silly alt-country cheekery, nor a moment where it seems the artist isn’t completely wrapped up in the drama. “All to Order” is the best slice, a plaintive riff cycle mixed with swipes of electric current and some of the most soulful picking/plucking you’ll find, memorable as a favorite scene from a favorite movie and eternal as the sun. With Zach Cale, what you get is what you feel; anything more or less would be illusory.

Links: Zachary Cale - All Hands Electric

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