David Grubbs (former member of Gastr del Sol) has been working together with poet Susan Howe for ten years and three albums so far, and WOODSLIPPERCOUNTERCLATTER is their fourth. Piano and quiet field recordings mix with Howe's words to form a delicate and thoughtful set of pieces. On Blue Chopsticks.
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- WOODSLIPPERCOUNTERCLATTER by Susan Howe & David Grubbs
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When you’re left in grand museum showrooms after hours, you either scribble sunglasses on the portraits or record avant-garde records, and props to Susan Howe & David Grubbs for taking the integrity route and doing the latter. This duo have been working together for a long time, with Grubbs mustering minimalist compositions to go with Howe’s measured, terseley drawn out poems. The third player here is the museum, which the sleeve for ‘WOODSLIPPERCOUNTERCLATTER’ claims to be a resonant additive for this record. In honesty, I don’t notice it — Howe and Grubbs create an intimately uncomfortable record all on their own.
The first side of this record is unflinching; Grubbs lays down a chord that booms and reverberates and juxtaposes it with a sharper one way up the piano, keeping a steady sense of dread for Howe to project her diverse but interrelated thoughts onto. Howe’s style feels almost improvisational, in this context: every pause sounds like a moments thought, and she often comes back in with poetic U-turns: she names an object or preaches an aphorism, acting as if we’ve been having the relevant conversation with her all along.
On the flip, Howe cuts through the sounds of birds chirping and air breezing to speak in abstract terms, sounding something like a more surreal version of Godspeed’s sampled intro to “Sleep”. Eventually she hooks up with violent piano improvisations, her voice becoming fittingly furious and ascendant. Wordless intonations follow, which suggest Howe is as good at creating evocative sounds as she is at creating beguiling imagery. Cool, I love museum rock.
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