Music Review: Astronautalis by uncdiversions
October 29, 2008, 8:45 am
Filed under: Uncategorized



(Eyeball Records)

It’s an interesting process to think about your dreams after you wake up. Chaotic shifts of perspective, settings and identity still seem to flow together perfectly though you know the musings, or horrors, are completely ridiculous.

A listen to the latest release from Astronautalis recreates this feeling to a remarkable degree.

Pomegranate, the third release by Andy Bothwell under the monicker, is a dark musical fun house in which strains of blues and folk sit right next to Beck-esque ramblings of pleasing nonsense and hard-edged, socially conscious back-packer hip-hop.

Ideas, narratives and styles fade in and out of each other suddenly and without a wholly apparent reason but, somehow, are still paced in such a way for this mishmash of disparate influences to meld together seamlessly.

The album starts with “The Wondersmith and his Sons,” a Tom-Waits-inspired blues siren song, in which Bothwell plays the part of a con-man slyly confessing to his blind-siding ways. “My father was a charming man with much hidden up his sleeve/ I wonder if this is what he planned when he taught his tricks to me,” he sings, giving the listener the idea that it might not be a good idea to trust him.

The questioning nature of the rest of the album falls under this idea, as Bothwell matches seemingly heartfelt revelations with probing social commentary and post-modern angst, creating an oppressive soup of ideas that transports the listener to an incredibly claustrophobic world.

Just as the lyrics are compelling in their ability to unify scattershot ideas, so it goes with the music.

“Trouble Hunters” twists the bombast of Bruce Springsteen into an irresistible sadist anthem with the chorus “I know it’s hopeless, hell ain’t big enough to hold us back/ Come on let’s pick a fight, we hunt for trouble tonight,” and “Avalanche Patrol” paints a heartbreakingly sarcastic vision of cold isolation over light, jazz-informed lounge music.

Bothwell’s insistence on doing what you don’t expect causes him to fall flat on his face once with the complete silence of “The Most Important Song on the Album.” Seriously, there’s no point in ruining great flow with a track of nothing, no matter what point you’re trying to prove.

But when there is actually sound pumping, Pomegranate is endlessly thrilling, revealing different ironies and relationships between the various themes and styles on each listen, finding that rare area where music is as entertaining as it is intellectually stimulating.

Astronautalis plays Local 506 tonight with local rap-flavored acts Kerbloki and Juan Huevos. The show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $6.

– By Assistant Diversions Editor Jordan Lawrence


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