Tendrils - Joel Silbersher & Charlie Owen (Sorcerer Records)
As ethereal and otherworldly as when it came out on CD in 1995, “Tendrils” continues to defy easy categorisation on LP.
It was the first album for the pairing of Joel Silbersher (Hoss, GOD et al) and Charlie Owen (New Christs, Beasts of Bourbon and, again, many more) and married seemingly disparate guitar approaches to restrained vocals against an background of minimal percussion.
By then, Joel and Charlie were two of the so-called underground’s best-known players. Owen was - and still is - a consummate guitar player’s player and had had national success with the Beasts; Silbersher was the diminutive and cocky ex-GOD rocker whose current band, Hoss, seemed poised for much bigger things. He should be internationally lauded to thsi day. Putting them together in a studio was always going to produce something interesting.
The credits have Owen playing guitars, pedal bass, piano, organ, percussion, mandolin, banjo, bass recorder, backing vocals on one track and drums on another. Silbersher did the vocals and guitars, as well as playing drums, harmonica, and incidental keyboards. Spencer P Jones produced.
If you insist on pigeon-holing, folk-blues might be your tag of choice. There's a feeling of intimacy that's a world removed from both members' other bands. It's also a notch quieter than the "Tendrils" album that followed but no less intense.
You may know "Night Comes In" as a Richard Thompson song. The balance are originals.
If you're expecting some late night slumber of a record, look elsewhere. "Tendrils" has its quiet moments but also carries an air of tension. A track like "Almost There" smoulders before flaring on the point of some excoriating electric guitar, before hanging off a note as the track fades into the run-out groove.
"Caught in a Lie" employs percussion cleverly to change up from sombre to embittered. Minimal instrumentation as a weapon. If a track like "Snooze Alarm" is the soundtrack to your sleep-in, you have industrial deafness. The back cover art - a snail poised on the edge of a razor blade - does not lie. The only genteel thing is the pace.
Joel's vocal is distinctive, living somewhere near resigned and hanging out at a placed called world weary. Set against the intense playing, it sits just right. Sometimes the lyrics are slurred or momentarily slip into some dark crevice of the soundscape. It adds to the allure.
Mikey Young did the re-master and it sounds boss.
On a side note, "Tendrils:" is the second release from the new label started by David Lang, who used to run Desperate Records (NOT Dog Meat David Laing, who ran Dog Meat and/or its other incarnations Grown Up Wrong! and Savage Beat ) Anyway. This ride's going to be interesting.