Skribe’s Postcards: A Special Delivery

Skribe fans know his minimalist approach.  He makes huge music and art with so few raw materials.  He kicks at a ratty old hi-hat cymbal and bass drum fashioned out of a battered suitcase while he yanks tunes out of yard sale guitars or a canjozookie, an 8-stringed creature made from an old oil can.  He plays a kazoo. skribe canjo-zookie It might look like an accident but it sounds like the sorcerer’s apprentice has enchanted a music store.  His sound and his vibe enchanted enough people to crowdfund his entire 2014 album, Less is More.  How one guy makes that much music is magic indeed!

In December of 2016, Skribe released Postcards, a collection of eight songs with him backed by a full band.  It’s exactly the album many of his fans already heard in their heads.  Anyone who has caught him live has seen plenty of high-test musicians lined up to jam with him and been treated to some obscenely good collaborations.  On Postcards, Skribe takes a road trip with all his musical buddies riding shotgun.  And from the first notes, you’re along for the ride.  This is a fun album!  And if you’re not careful, you might learn something too.

“Wide Awake,” the first track, is about insomnia.  You, fellow traveler, follow his imagination “…through the ceiling into outer space” and back again to the central questions of life.  How does he answer them?  He seeks “…the unturned stones still on the old frontier.”  The music buzzes and reverberates and sounds like infinity.  Six instruments include electric guitar, vibraphone and electric carillon.  After a few listens, you may actually dream about scenes from this song.  It won’t disturb your sleep but it might make you hum in the daylight.  It’s the new sound of ancient wisdom and wondering.

The deep thoughts continue on track two.  Yet “Common Ground” reminds us how simple life can be in the moment.  Horns and drums give the tune an international, festival kind of vibe.  He says, “…the settled heads of perfect pours rise with high demand so fill your soul or thirst for more but tonight won’t come again.”

“Home Sweet Home” would make a great rap.  Or it could have been a hit for Hank Williams.  Skribe grins that he’s gonna “…grow on you like a wicked weed.”   It’s a rambler’s tale of chasing a muse.

“Mayonnaise & Honey” is a rock song about passion.  You’ll get it.  It rocks.

The savory instrumental “Canned Ham Blues” is actually played on a hamjo.  Yep.  It’s a stringed instrument made from the can from a canned ham.  It’s all Skribe.

The song “M.I.Y” had its actual debut in a video Skribe submitted to the 2016 NPR Tiny Desk Concert series.  You can make it yourself.  It’s all about perspective.  In the video you actually see a tiny desk and the canjozookie.

The last original song on the record is “Partners in Crime.”  It could be a paean to his muse, his guitar, his band or his audience.  Whatever the meaning, he means it.  It’s obvious that Skribe, aka Aaron Yealdhall, is at home wherever he finds himself.  He’s enjoying looking for himself and for us.  At shows since the record’s release, he’s introduced himself saying “My name’s Aaron and I play in this band called Skribe.”

So fans can now have something in their hands that they’ve heard in their heads and hearts for a while.  Yes Aaron is Skribe but Skribe is also an idea, an entity.  It’s very Zen for garage folk.  It’s also rock, country and the blues with this big-ol’ band and high production values.  It’s the jackalope in the landscape, the wings on the vacuum tube, and the helmet on the dog.   On these Postcards, Skribe delivers some wonders of the world you will want to write home about and visit over and over.

The final song on the album is “Strangers” by Dave Davies of The Kinks, from their 1970 album Lola.  It says “Strangers on this road we are on, we are not two we are one.”  It’s a perfect fit with the journey metaphors of this album and brings us all home together.

Medusa’s Disco Goes Acoustic: Fruit From a Timeless Planet

Medusa’s Disco Goes Acoustic: No No No Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah!

Maybe you’re old enough or maybe you saw it on YouTube.  Once upon a time MTV played music videos and even hosted a performance series called “Unplugged.”  When grunge rockers Nirvana made their “Unplugged” appearance, lots of people were skeptical…for about half a song.  Somehow the raw, painful beauty of their songs still bored into your heart even though they weren’t blasting your ears.

Such is the trick pulled here by Medusa’s Disco on Fruit From a Timeless Planet, their 2016 acoustic release.  The songs still feel like voices in your head.  They muse on disregard and despair.  The boys still ask big questions about the state of the world, time and space.  The screams and roars have become wails and whispers, calling you to consciousness like some lost band of monks chanting and tripping on Ibogaine.  They pick a line, repeat it, harmonize it and build it up until you’re breathing it as much as hearing it.  “Around here…it’s all so simple…it’s not so simple…no, no, no yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah!” from “Ask the Bird” will have you winking and flying off in one verse.

The intricate rhythms and melodies lend this acoustic set a progressive sensibility.  They don’t have the organs and synthesizers of 70’s era ELP or Yes but they do have ecstatic sitar and violin.  Does anything sound more psychedelic and other-worldly than a sitar?  medusa-acousticFor a young player, Wynton Huddle has a sensual hug on that thing.  And Robin Chambers on violin has long been recognized as a portal to another world.  She’s a special addition to the acoustic edition of MD.  Bees, butterflies and buzzards live in her bow.  Alex Aument on percussion shows a deft touch that belies his years of Muppet-Animal-like explosive nature on drums.  Ty Smith seems freed by going acoustic and styling more on his bass.

The human voice, of course, is the ultimate acoustic instrument.  Hunter Root and Wynton wield their voices like Jedi’s.  You hear and feel every swing of their vocal pipes.  Wails and whispers, screams and roars, mind tricks: they capture your senses and your imagination.  They are vocal pyres that throw a lot of heat.

There’s a complexity and depth to the music beyond the expectations of “…X rock band makes an acoustic album.”  And even with all the bemoaning of lies, liars and promises not kept, they still see promise in the world and reasons to pursue curiosity and enlightenment.  “Don’t wait ‘til you die…to become Divine.”  That is some nourishing Fruit From a Timeless Planet.