Just got my copy of Cary Grace’s “Perpetual Motion.” What a gem from across the pond, by way of the colonies. Greats disc(s), great little package; Ms. Grace obviously is in it for all the right reasons.
I get lost pigeonholing stuff to achieve some sort of shorthand, so I’m loathe to throw around words like “prog” and “art-rock” (isn’t it all art? In one way …) if only for the baggage those terms carry. Let’s just say spacey.
There’s a lot going on in here. I can here a lot of influences and touchstones, but not once does it sound like aping another band, or going into it sarcastically, or with that dreaded hipster irony. I can hear some Floyd in here, circa ‘Animals’ maybe. Especially in some of the production and how things are layered. I can pick up Hawkwind-like flourishes floating around, especially in some of the accents; the beeps and bloops and blips and washes remind me of how Hawkwind would use them (when they did so judiciously), the amount of them (again, see “judiciously”). But the execution is more like small doses of Can or some other Krautrock allies; more of a color, more of a wash. And the use of the violin points to the influences as well; Gong, Hawkwind again, Crimson … it may not sound LIKE them, but it breathes much of the same air (when there is air out in space). It’s a nod to the past with eyes looking ahead; it’s not all old school as the kids say. Contemporaries that come to mind might be of the ilk of 7% Solution, Uni-sex or even the stretched out Escapade.
Underneath all this though, is a gorgeous ragged slow burn. It’s not lo-fi by any means, but you can tell this is coming from the garage so to speak. Or maybe a room off to the side, a room specially built with a lot of care. And it’s great to hear music like this coming out not overly polished and refined so all the nice burrs are burnished off. Conversely, it’s fantastic to have something out of the garage that’s not just another White Stripes or Stooges or … “garage” mock job. You can do a lot in the garage, more than just pump up the octane and polish chrome. And this quality doesn’t mean low budget either. This is obviously very nurtured and coaxed. But Grace left in some rough hewn edges that really bring it all together: it’s what the band wanted. Bands like Swell or Grandaddy (obvious examples for me …) had a decidedly junkyard-art approach. And it was conscious and on purpose. That “lo-fi” patina was aimed for and spun and spun until it was clear that the production was an obvious choice made to achieve that signature sound. And “Perpetual Motion” benefits the same way. Now, I don’t know Cary Grace, or the story behind all the recording. Maybe given a budget the size of Wal-Mart’s economy she would have opted for some overblown bloat and helped to add to the sad reputation that prog has, or music like this … whatever you want to call it, or have to call it to make it make sense. But I doubt it. It’s not a by-product of home built studios, or shaky recording environs. It’s purposeful and works with all the other planets in tandem to reach it’s sweet end orbit.
And Ms. Grace lets many of the tracks take their time to reach that end point. She’s not afraid to let the sonics really stretch out, to let the bubbling slow riffs and melodies play out to one of many possible conclusions. In a way, she kind of leaves a lot of it up to YOU; if you want to that big planet caravan impact, you have to go with it and enjoy the ride and don’t think about it … too hard at least. If you do, you’ll miss some things.
All this comes to you via download. Pshaw—buy the disc. It comes in a lovingly made pack; simple but elegant and just cool. You can poke around carygrace.com and see a shot of the bundle if that floats your boat. It sure floats mine.
Why? Because she obviously cares. If she didn’t let us peek into that a bit, why should we care?
“Perpetual Motion” was a stellar find (thanks to the New Breakfast Snob at WRIR for turning me on to it) in lots of ways. It’s home-spun all right. It’s home-made I guess you could say, from that ragged edge to the hand-made limited edition packaging. But it has its eyes and ears on much bigger things. Maybe a new planet.
Ok. I have to do it. And I’m sorry. It’s downright graceful, too. It really is.
I usually let things cook for awhile longer before I get on a soapbox about them, pro or con. But this one didn’t need to simmer very long. As soon as I put it on and gave it a maiden voyage spin, it was pretty clear that Cary Grace already let this simmer for just the right amount of time. It arrived fully baked out of the oven.