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Waxed - Record Review from Issue #37 Jan-Feb 2002

Howe Gelb

Lull (Some Piano) (Thrill Jockey)

Howe Gelb’s instrumental Lull (Some Piano) might just make believers of those put off by previous outlets for his mainline to the muse. Somehow, with Gelb turned loose on keys, the sonic meandering that occasionally jars and wrenches from his electric guitar turns serene, and his affinity for incidental noise — a fragment of idle conversation here, a muted household clatter there — serves to make the peace more plausible.

Gelb’s improvisations mimic classical phrases without caricaturing them. Both the composition and execution are unconventional, but subtle structures ease the listener’s drift. Even the sequencing seems thoughtful; it’s an ideal first-thing-in-the-morning record, arising from a dreamlike state through a few gently jazzy pick-me-ups to a semi-circuslike eye-opener.

Instead of song titles, Lull’s liner notes offer brief, insightful elaborations on the recording setting for each piece, the gear used, the personnel and identification of incidental noises. Track 3, for instance, is “Looking for chords sounding like New York City in the Autumn time there at the Knitting Factory.” Track 10 is “Recorded on the 1888 piano at home with the Internet signing on by accident in perfect measure during the bridge and then John [Convertino] and Joe [Burns] added.” And, with Gelb’s characteristic whimsy, track 13 is the same piano but “…after lugging it into the room with the cement floors instead of the wooden floored one.”

Fans of Giant Sand and Gelb’s previous solo efforts will find Lull to be a departure in sound, but even though the mood is quiet, it’s explored with the same spirit of adventure that has become Gelb’s hallmark.

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Originally Featured in Issue #37 Jan-Feb 2002

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