Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Paul Bergmann - The Other Side

Paul Bergmann has released 12 albums, but from what I can tell, none of them sound like The Other Side, his latest release, out now on Diggers Factory. In fact, hardly anything I've heard sounds much like The Other Side. It is strange, wonderful and in places, beautiful. The contrast between Bergmann's drawn-out, drawled and distorted vocals and the dreamlike instrumental backing creates music that requires some effort to take in, and the effort is rewarded. Initially, I found this record frustrating, but ultimately, it has become a favorite, because there is just so much going on, so many layers, and so much built-in contrast. Here is the title track, "The Other Side":


 In different places here, I hear echoes of two of my very favorite singer-songwriters - Richard Buckner and Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse). It's nice to have music like this, that reminds you of what is possible with a little variation on rock instrumentation and some imagination. Here is "Oh, My Love", sort of a takeoff on the story of Rapunzel: 


Most of the vocals are not mixed in order to make the lyrics easily decipherable. Some of the instruments overlap and require repeated listens in order to distinguish which is which. And the best thing about this record is that the talent and creativity on display here absolutely reward repeated listening - you may hear different snippets each time, and your impression may shift, or, as in my case, your enjoyment of the music will grow. There are short lead-in numbers like “Change from the Rust” and “Blue Hearts”, and there is a 7:45 track about halfway through called “Homeward Bound”. The variations in track lengths and atmospherics sort of simulate a trip with short and longer legs. There are references throughout the lyrics to forest, fauna (another track is “Diamond Fawn”) and fairy tales. The impression is of life as a trip through a sort of enchanted forest, and even though it seems to end in dissolution (last track is “Rust From the Change”), the trip is absolutely worth repeating.

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