‘Spillin’ The Beans is a bit late this week, due to circumstances beyond my control, OK, I had a cold and didn’t fancy listening to stuff over and over, but today the Beans are recharged and back on track. This week’s album is by Squarewave, a band formed by Jeff Jagielo and Pat Connaughty and their album, “A Tighter Knot”, has emerged from the forests of Winsconsin after a long gestational period of seven, yes seven years and is now available from Artisanal Records, where you can also stream the album. The band also has a page on Facebook, too.
So, was it worth the wait? Read on and find out.
If you like a bit of psych, and regular readers of these reviews will know that a bit of psych is right up my street, then this album is definitely going to tickle your fancy. To my ears, it is a very accomplished piece of work, the songs are well-honed, as befits something which took a long time to come to fruition, the playing is excellent and the soundworld is both unique and familiar at once. This band really does seem to have nailed the sound.
There are some tracks which are dreamy, others which are more rocky, folky-sounding ones and others which have a classic psychedelic sound. Having said that, this isn’t an exercise in nostalgia or plundering the past, because the influences are all mixed up to form something modern.
You can hear the dreamy side of their music on the track “Badlands” which is available on YouTube, here. I think that this is a fabulous sound, it reminds me a bit of Daniel Lanois but with a bit of Spiritualized thrown in, because it has that gorgeous lush widescreen epic quality you get with Jason Pierce’s work. The first time around, this was the track that stood out for me, but there are many joys to be found on this album. The second time around, I began to hear other things, lovely washes of synthesiser, some retro-sounding Floydian organ and some distinctly Beatles-ish songwriting and arranging. Rhythm section members Alivia Kleinfeldt on bass and drummer Brendan Manley anchor the sound nicely, providing a solid foundation for layers of guitars, keyboards (including Mellotron, which I adore) and vocals that build up to deliver some truly delightful music, with that aforementioned epic quality. What I love about this album is the sheer variety of the music, which is always inventive and engaging, never dull or formulaic and packed with clever ideas and sounds.
I have to say that this music is hard to pin down, and that is part of the appeal of the album. Listening to it, I kept on thinking “Ah, yes, this is a bit like so-and-so” but the next track would offer up something different, but equally enjoyable. This is a terrific album, so much so that I’ve actually ordered it as a CD from the website. Yup, I like it that much.
Still don’t just take my word for the quality of this music. Here’s what Butch Vig (yes, THAT Butch Vig) has to say about Squarewave;
“Squarewave is creating sophisticated and original one-of-a-kind psychedelic folk-rock. I started working with Jeff at Smart Studios nearly 30 years ago as the producer of his then band Ivory Library. From the beginning the music was mysterious, ethereal and instantly identifiable. A Tighter Knot is brilliantly recorded, with layered guitar playing and an ambitious, near epic production.”
I don’t reckon you’ll get a much better endorsement anywhere.