DIETRICH GOSSER – City of Windows
Percussionist Dan Kuemmel’s mother thinks his music is weird. She is right about that, but it’s weird in an utterly intriguing, strangely fascinating way, and Dietrich Gosser’s six-song EP City of Windows wouldn’t be nearly as affecting without it. Even after seeing the pair play, I have a hard time identifying what exactly Kuemmel is hitting, and with what, to produce the otherworldly sounds that fill this record. Like a minimalist version of Skeleton Key’s fantastic junkyard percussion (which featured a red wagon and a gas tank), Kuemmel’s kit includes more found instrumentation than it does traditional drums. Of course, he would simply be an interesting drummer if his playing weren’t so perfectly matched with Gosser’s introspective songs of redemption and damnation.
There is something unquestionably and often uneasily old-fashioned about this music, especially the haunted road trip of “From a Mercury Lynx.” I guarantee they didn’t go through any tollbooths on I-90 on this drive; all of this traveling was done on seldom-used highways and back roads. While the overwhelming feeling is of stealing out of town in a late-night getaway, it could just as easily be about a family vacation. The final line, “Billy’s still sleeping with his head against the door/ I shut my eyes for just a moment and we’re back in Illinois,” seems to hint at the latter. If Andrew Bird had grown up playing accordion instead of violin, the Bowl of Fire might have produced a travelogue like this.
The word reprieve has never sounded less hopeful or more damned than it does as the title of the fourth track. Echoing 16 Horsepower’s fire-and-brimstone approach (especially as exemplified on “Ruthie Lingle” from Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes), Gosser testifies “So let’s knock back another/ Put the evening under my belt/ I’ll tie it down myself” over not-quite-a-gallop percussion. “Oh You Little Lamb” never comes close to the innocence of its title; this lamb is definitely of the sacrificial instead of the Mary-had-a-little variety. With dogs barking and skin crawling, he admits, “I ain’t scared to die.” Even more unnerving than Nick Cave’s “Tupelo,” it does it without all the bluster, and on the hundredth listen it still gives me chills. What sounds like a bowed upright bass accompanies Gosser and his guitar on the title track. Sounding almost like a prayer, “City of Windows” finishes this accomplished and uniformly remarkable CD with some hope for salvation. I can’t wait to hear what’s next.