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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 206 - 06/23/13

David Grubbs
The Plain Where the Palace Stood
Drag City

David Grubbs has kind of drifted away from my view in later years, partially because of a lack of interest from my part in his more experimental work and partially sheer laziness. Therefore some of his more mainstream releases (on Drag City) have slipped under my radar. His work with Jim O'Rourke in Gastr Del Sol is among the most exciting to emerge in the nineties and all their four albums are well worth checking out for adventurous listeners. After the duo split up, both of them have produced great stuff and collaborating in a wide range of styles. So when my editor told me he was coming to Blaa for a concert to present his newest album, I found time to spin a few of his older solo favourites, The Thicket and Rickets & Scurvy, among them. I immediately bought a concert ticket to secure a place in the crowd. I shouldn't have bothered though cause the place wasn't exactly crowded (I counted 16 persons in the audience at concert start).

The concert was mainly filled with music from his latest album, on which both his fellow musicians play. The venue was perfect for Grubbs' music, the sound was great and the different instruments came into its own. As I was unfamiliar with the new stuff it took a little while to adapt to the style on the album but soon I was "in the groove" (if that's the term). The new record is more in style with some of the things he did early on in Gastr del Sol or maybe more so with Bastro. Grubbs' guitar is always in front and his guitar playing is in many ways a distinct one; you can hear right away who is playing.

The other guitarist, Stefano Pilia, remained discreetly in the background, just as he is on the record. Drummer Andrea Belfi contribute with a varied and inventive backdrop to the two others, he rocks when that's needed and spices the sound picture where appropriate.

Traditional song structures are not very important in much of the music on the new record; come to think of it, it never has been in Grubbs' music. A song can be just a couple of riffs repeated over and over, as in the title track which opened both the concert and the album. It's never dull or tiring, just hypnotic and mesmerizing, on record enhanced with a violin.

The Plain... is a varied collection, from melodic, closer-to-pop-songs like "Ornamental Hermit" to instrumental, floating songs such as "First Salutation". You won't sit humming along to this record, but Grubbs is an innovative and exciting guitarist and a fascinating composer. He invites you to intense listening and ears kept open will be rewarded.

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You may also want to check out our David Grubbs articles/reviews: A Guess at the Riddle, An Optimist Notes the Dusk, Prismrose.

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