Bot­tle It In

UNCUT - - New Al­bums -

MATA­DOR 8/10 Itchy-footed opus cuts a sweetly soul­ful dash via epi­cally long cuts. By Sharon O’Con­nell

IF any one song on Kurt Vile’s first al­bum in three years reads like a mis­sion state­ment, it’s his sweet cover of Char­lie Rich’s “Rollin’ With The Flow” from 1977. As an homage to the free­wheel­ing rock’n’roll life, it fits Vile’s pu­ta­tive neo-slacker pro­file. But groovy ex­is­ten­tial­ism aside, the song’s ti­tle and lan­guid pac­ing to­gether sum up this record’s epic reach and al­lude to the con­stant move­ment that helped shape it. More than any of his pre­vi­ous al­bums,

Bot­tle It In marks Vile as a scenery-and­hori­zons rather than quick­est-di­rect-route guy – both lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally.

This is hardly a rad­i­cal switch for the 38-year-old song­writer, singer and gui­tarist. He’s said that the song­writ­ing process is about “let­ting your brain drift wher­ever you are”, and has talked about his early in­ter­est in Ap­palachian blue­grass jams. He once de­scribed Smoke

Ring For My Halo as “a wan­der­ing record”, a fa­mil­iar trope in the blues/roots mu­sic play­book. And Vile’s songs have long been char­ac­terised by their at­ten­u­a­tion and loose, ex­ploratory qual­ity, from the drone blues of Child­ish Prodigy’s “In­side Look­ing Out”, through the trippy slow wind that is “Laugh­ing Stock” (off his “So Outta Reach” EP) to “Wheel­house” and “Lost My Head There” from B’lieve

I’m Goin Down…. As­so­ci­a­tions with The War On Drugs, Steve Gunn and Court­ney Bar­nett rep­re­sent the same itin­er­ant style, al­beit dif­fer­ently re­alised. But at a to­tal length of 76 min­utes, with two tracks run­ning well over the 10-minute mark and a geo­graph­i­cal stretch from his home­town of Phil­a­del­phia to Cal­i­for­nia, his lat­est is some­thing else again.

The record took shape as it was recorded, its start­ing point the end of the Vi­o­la­tors’

B’lieve I’m Goin Down… Asian tour in Hawaii. Vile had his fam­ily meet him there and stayed for two weeks, then de­cided to stop off in LA on the way home, where he did some record­ing with pro­ducer Rob Sch­napf. “I sort of dis­cov­ered that was the way to do it,” he told Un­cut. “It’s just like, com­bin­ing things: play­ing for peo­ple live, see­ing the world with fam­ily – it’s all way more real.” Im­promptu record­ing ses­sions in stu­dios across the US – Philly, Brook­lyn, Port­land, LA – were slot­ted in be­tween lengthy US tours and road trips with his wife and chil­dren. Writ­ing was done on the hop. The hazy, lazily plan­gent “Hys­te­ria”, for in­stance, was penned on a plane and as­sumes ex­tra poignancy in light of the fact that for a while Vile was scared of fly­ing (“Stop this plane cuz I wanna get off, pull over some­where on the side of a cloud and watch me get out”). All of which makes Bot­tle It In a very par­tic­u­lar road record, in­volv­ing both

long­stand­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors (Vi­o­la­tors Rob Laakso, Kyle Spence and Jesse Tr­bovich, Farmer Dave Scher, Warpaint’s Stella Moz­gawa) and newer con­nec­tions (Shawn Everett, Kim Gor­don). The no­tion of mu­si­cians as a kind of di­as­pora is a du­bi­ous one, but these con­tact points have sparked a deep, soul­ful warmth that com­ple­ments the al­bum’s med­i­ta­tive cool, droll hu­mour and some­times bleakly philo­soph­i­cal lyrics. There’s a lot of love, too, from the opaque “One Trick Ponies”, with its ir­re­sistibly rolling, coun­try-rock gait, easy vo­cal har­monies and star­tling news flash (“I’ve al­ways

had a soft spot for rep­e­ti­tion”), to the scratchily cin­e­matic “Cold Was The Wind” – where Vile ac­knowl­edges the small, world-right­ing acts of love par­ent­hood in­volves – and the ter­rific ti­tle track with its rat­tling back­beat and plucked harp, where he first warns against declar­ing one’s love “for your own sake, cuz you never know when your heart’s gonna break”, then flips to the dire con­se­quences of hav­ing “bot­tled it in”.

Run­ning at over nine min­utes, the ca­su­ally ec­static “Bas­sack­wards” is an­other stand­out: gui­tars (both fin­ger-picked acous­tic and back­masked elec­tric) push and pull with gen­tle, psych-folk in­sis­tence over synth and harp ac­com­pa­ni­ment, while Vile dives into the mys­tic, mus­ing “with a very drift­ing mind” on life, the uni­verse and his place in it un­til he’s al­most un­teth­ered, snap­ping back “just in time to jot it down

and come around”. “Check Baby” is its po­lar op­po­site, a gnarly, swing­ing sketch of the end­less rou­tine of tour­ing life and a wry com­ment on the nor­mal­ity it’s come to rep­re­sent.

For all this set’s seem­ingly ef­fort­less, free­hand charm and the feel­ing that Vile is sim­ply the wran­gler of songs that have their own agency, that’s clearly not the case. How­ever ec­cen­tric and laid­back his ex­pres­sion, it’s as mas­ter­fully dis­tinc­tive as that of any au­teur. Vile’s a soul­ful and per­cep­tive rover, not some head­scratch­ing ram­bler. Bot­tle It In proves that there’s a lit­eral world of dif­fer­ence be­tween them.

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