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Wednesday, 31 January 2007 00:00

Local lo-fi gets a high five

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By Chris Cooper

Morning Missed: Broken Cords Of Rotten Wood

 

After a fairly misleading Iron and Wine styled acoustic intro (with either the sounds of the ocean or traffic — or both — bubbling beneath the sparse acoustic guitar and vocal), Morning Missed reveals its moody, lo-fi rock intentions with “Coffee and Wine.” Songwriter John Bultman has a knack for intimate, dreamy wordplay throughout the album’s course, but patience is key here: Broken Cords ... is one of those recordings that need time to pick up steam.

By the time they hit the fine “Plastic Parts” things are rolling along quite well, and the songs’ clean, multi-layered arrangement reveals a keen ear for putting interesting sounds where they count. The same could be said for “Give In Two,” a rolling acoustic driven song that juxtaposes pastoral melody with a gritty little “percussion” loop, which by the end fades into the sound of rustling leaves. In fact, the point about “interesting sounds” doesn’t just refer to music and notes. Many songs feature ear-tweaking borrowed material in their layers, whether it’s a sample of conversation from a television commercial, as in “Padded Room” or the somewhat atonal “toy symphony” elements scattered through “Red, Red Sea.”

Broken Cords Of Rotten Wood is a good listen, though maybe not the happiest little slice of sunshine out there. If you dig anyone from the alphabetically arranged laundry list of influences included on their Myspace page, you may have been tempted to catch Morning Missed at their gig last Saturday at Guadalupe Café. Nice stuff.

True Nature Of Science: Scalar

Sharing some of the lo-fi sensibilities and sonic experimentation as Morning Missed, but with a uber noisy twist of their own, power “duo” True Nature Of Science’s first album is a boiled over beaker full of cranky sounds. Fusing equal parts Devo, Yo La Tengo and an angrier version of the B52’s (though I’m sure those influences might seem a tad pedestrian to the band members) TNOS to a degree formed out of necessity: unable to find the right members to flesh out the band, Brian Southard decided to just do the majority of it himself, with Areli holding down drums and the occasional vocal.

Of course, this meant that Southard found a way to play distorted bass, harmonica, looped synthesizer and spit out his “nerd rage” inflected vocals- all at the same time. It works quite well. What Scalar might lack in variety from song to song, it makes up for with sheer personality. Beneath the snotty delivery and decidedly skewed sounds are surprisingly earnest lyrics, even with titles like “You, Me and the Laws of Thermodynamics” and “Me and My AOR.” Every now and again a thoroughly unexpected sound pops up, a vocal is delivered in another language, or some other whacky thing occurs — and it happens often enough to keep things interesting through the course of the baker’s dozen and a half of tunes collected here.

Scalar, besides just being a word I really like, also turns out to be a fine CD. Though I suspect Southard and Co. know exactly what they’re doing, it’s their ability to sound just on the edge of falling apart, and stay there, that draws you in. And ultimately, it’s what happens while they’ve got your attention that makes you want to dig a little deeper.

My apologies to Areli, whose last name I realized I didn’t know and couldn’t find in time to include here. Sorry.

(Chris Cooper can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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