Psych folk and New Weird America connoisseur Josh Burkett used to play in noise band Vermonster, but also has a prolific solo career. 'Life Less Lost' was his first record and is now being reissued by Golden Lab on vinyl. Burkett's frenetic, impressively free-form and yet technical guitar playing is matched off with a typically modest vocal performance.
Tracks:Let It Go Lessons Learned Stupid Hope Place In Time Whole Movement Guidance from Vernon, FL Off to Work Winter Together Time That We Are Losing It Walter's Conscience Footsteps Lone Night Song
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Joshua Burkett is one of the New Weird America scene’s early pioneers, affiliated with the caustic Sunburned Hand of the Man but also the champion of four solo releases. Unlike the freeform folk and fucked up Americana that has existed around him, Burkett’s music can be as delicate as Elliott Smith’s, and sometimes you barely hear a word of it: his mumblings are reclusive and lay buried under anxious banjo picking and quiet acoustic strums. Burkett is experimental in the sense that his music underrates itself: it’s barely been heard, because it never asks to be.
‘Life Less Lost’ is a dominantly depressing folk record that posits Burkett in total solitude: a little like if Guthrie had existed in the technological era, his voice sounds like it’s coming from the inside of a bucket, and his instruments are no better produced. You could call Burkett’s music weird, but it employs its additive instrumentation in such a modest way -- with such sparsity -- that it never feels like Burkett’s just fucking about. In the same way Jeff Mangum would make emotive music and add the peculiarities after, the recorders, whistles, ambience and vocal processing only feel like ways to disguise Burkett’s expression.
Things get a bit wackier on side two, as the instruments and vocals become more formally experimental, the vision of a spacier and less recognisable Burkett. Through it all, though, the confessional songwriter remains: listen to “Winter Together” and you’ll hear him wading through his dissonant recorders into a dour, distraught song.
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