You know you’re getting older when you assess the complexion of your local music scene and ditch it for nostalgia. And when you begin to reassess what happened way back when, you realize it may have been slightly better, but all scenes have had their fair share of mediocrity. I’m not exactly sure where that’s headed, but I do feel lucky to live in Columbus and absorb the constant stream of music being made around me. Still, we’re in a slump and there appears to be a lack of excitement. But there are always diamonds in the rough, like the following singles. Here’s some local color (and one adopted band) that has been piquing my ears as of late.
Will Foster/Nasli Hovsepian, “G,A,U,N,T, Gaunt” b/w “Reba’s Face” (Lost Weekend)
You’d think it would be a no-brainer for a record store to press up some limited offerings for Record Store Day, but nowhere except for at the fine Columbus emporium known as Lost Weekend did this happen. Owner Kyle Siegrist took it upon himself to offer customers his own exclusive for our new favorite holiday, simultaneously giving birth to his new label. The first release for Lost Weekend is less than obvious, pairing long-time helmsman of the Guinea Worms, Will Foster, with the relatively unknown and apparent mystery woman Nasli Hovsepian. Foster’s side “G,A,U,N,T, Gaunt” is what we can always expect from this cracked genius. Its simplicity—an acoustically strummed chant of the title, over and over—is almost comical. And in tribute to one of Columbus’ most legendary bands, it’s also indicative of the acerbic wit and punchy brevity that belied Jerry Wick. In the back a mandolin is strung, a Gaunt record is drugged and sped, and we do it all over again (assuming you believe in Foster’s power of repetition).
Hovsepian doesn’t exactly continue with the revelry. Her “Reba’s Face” is recorded as if by secret, with a few scant chords tethering it to reality. Hovsepian coos in 2am tones about love and loss to whoever is listening post-after-party. Her folk-tinged lullaby is not the most original piece, but it does contain precious sentimentality and a warm-glow thanks to its ’90s vibe. The more I listen, the more I’m reminded of things from that time that I didn’t get to worship, like Jenny Mae or the early Anyway Records cuts, if only because they were slightly before my time in this city. Surely if you like Lost Weekend on their Facepage you can find a way to get this, as it’s an excellent little reminder of all the music (still) being made in the basements, foyers and alleyways of North Campus.
Pink Reason, Negative Guest List Jukebox Single (Disordered)
Were it not for the spirit and blessing of the now departed Brendon Annesley, this wonderful oddity from Pink Reason might never exist. Originally slated for release on Negative Guest List (hence the title), Mr. Failure made it his mission, in the most roundabout of ways (full explanation comes with insert) to finally give this life. The single’s A-side, “Wrong/Right (Dancehallocaust Remix)” isn’t even a Pink Reason song, but it’s doubtful you’d recognize the material that’s being sliced, mutilated and diced here. Along with cohort Matt Horseshit, Failure takes a garage-laden Hussy song and morphs it into scattershot dub blaring like the Bomb Squad, then reverses it into a Tangerine Dream cosmos. Talk about the strangest turn yet for Pink Reason in a career of awfully strange turns. But wait, perhaps Failure’s best turn is the one heard on the flip. Forget about Axl Rose, Pink Reason make the Dylan classic “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” their own and then some, as Failure’s downer playing and laconic delivery latch to the song with an heightened sense of dismay (and even some hope towards the end). Failure even sings with himself in a kind of depressed baritone while a sole cello adds a gild to the wretchedness. It’s the perfect addition to the Pink Reason catalog and given the live band has quickly become a rollicking quartet, I’m half-expecting a Rolling Thunder Revue version to surface somewhere down the road.
TV Ghost, “Phantasm” b/w “Panic Area” (Sweet Rot)
It’s amusing to consider TV Ghost as the old guard when it was just a couple of years ago that we were salivating over the ugly torrent of disaffected punk the Lafayette, Indiana youngsters were importing to the dive bars of Columbus at a regular clip. Well now after a somewhat disappointing debut on In the Red, they’ve grown up a bit, honed their sound, shifted their line-up (how much I’m unsure), increased their fidelity and have brought us this single as their latest barrage. “Phantasm” is heavy on the sci-fi histrionics (whooshing space racket, satellite organ drone, and cold distant vocals), but really comes across as a sluggish and muddled smear of a song. Not that those adjectives really define “Phantasm,” as TV Ghost’s evolution (or lack thereof) completely remains in the eye of the beholder. One could say this attempt to beef up their sonic threshold is making their slash-and-burn technique all the more effective akin to bands like Chrome and perhaps even the earliest of Bauhaus sides. But on the other hand, their studied grip over their dynamism erases the fervor and danger that once appeared in their work. Luckily “Panic Area” delivers and comes without the wobbly transitions of the A-side. Here those snaking guitars lines continue to zig-zag and confuse, harsh angles of noise emit from the ether, and we are happily returned to the disorder once regaled. Is it a bad thing to want a band to regress back to their lo-fi roots? In the case of TV Ghost, I’d say get your four-track out of hock.