Sedalia, Growtheries EP

Sedalia, Growtheries EP

Sedalia’s Growtheries EP is just what it sounds like — it’s a nursery for the before-beginnings of beautiful song. In this sparse, echoey, uncooked lo-fi outfit (which is basically one guy, Ross Nervig), you may just find an overgrown barn tilting next to a corn field under a big sky, with tiny sprouts shooting up in a few places here and there in the dirt. In the planting, there’s a loose sense of control, along with a Weird American folk/rock sensibility, all directing the raw beginnings of a garden (recorded live on a one-track) while not quite seeming to direct at all. A hint of Devendra Banhart’s lo-fi mysterious Oh Me Oh My folk-ness in Growtheries is a unmistakable at first, but it quickly fades as a very new set of quirks and interests takes over and, well, grows on you. Where Devendra purposefully leaves the strands of his songs and ideas untied, Nevrig clearly ties them, creating more conceptually complete if equally non-refined pieces for a new kind of mosaic.

As the farmer with the pitchfork in a rolling Iowa landscape, Nervig certainly has a lucid if hard-to-catch-onto ear for rarefied, unanticipated, and enjoyable sounds. Five voices, two guitars, chimes, a cello, synth, percussion and “dreetar” — whatever that toy-piano-like instrument is — contribute to the soundscapes of the Growtheries songs, but given the unconventionality with which they’re used, you might never guess so many people (six, total) were involved. The tracks range from the lingering and melodic, like “Regretta Shay (Intro)” and “Big Yellow Buzzards,” the latter of which features Nervig’s voice over a pair of meandering, angelic female vocals and a bare-bones drumbeat, to the off-tune, catchy upbeat tracks, filled in with a bluesy acoustic guitar in “The Heavens” and “9 Steps to a Little Death,” the most uptempo song of the EP. With the haunting, lyrical, dreetar- and cello-supported “Give Up Your Ghost” and the return to high-tempo folk guitar-based “Eyewax,” this six-song collection asserts an amazing diversity of moods and tones that sits somewhere on the spectrum between austere sparseness and clear articulation of lyrical ideas.

While it’s a major strength of the album, that spectrum-spanning can also be the main cause of criticism of its approach — it’s remarkably successful at invoking a meaningful investigation of an isolated, newly revisited Midwest American Gothic psyche, but the songs can easily get lost in all that space, slop, and vocal off-tune-ness if one doesn’t listen very, very carefully. The execution sounds maybe too self-taught, and the beauty of the songs deserves more technical attention and flushing out for an exponentially more powerful version of an already interesting EP.

In other words, Growtheries is just the first sprout of a new set of ideas that deserve a chance to develop the fullness and complexity of a wild, flowering garden, streamlining the elements that don’t quite work (like vocals being just too reliably, even irritatingly, out-of-tune) into an environment of word and sound aiming straight for the emotions. It’s an interesting listen; keep your ears open.

(The Barely Bias Label -- 1088 42nd St., Des Moines, IA. 50311; http://barelybias.com/; Sedalia -- http://www.myspace.com/sedaliaross)
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Review by . Review posted Saturday, May 26th, 2007. Filed under Reviews.

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