Ezra Buchla/Whitman – ‘Black Rabbit/Scorpion’ [Review]

Exemplifying the west coast pop underground as people-centric and – perhaps ironically coming from “the West” – pedestrian in its accessibility (in the sense of a patio, not pap), Folktale records has served so relentlessly its community as to remind the audience on no uncertain terms who exactly that community contains.  With this in mind, it is something of a Hallmark moment to see this 7” split shared between long-time friends Ezra Buchla and Folktale operator Christopher Payne, aka Whitman.  Though regular collaborators, we have yet to see a joint effort of the nature of a split, which in the records game is a much stronger pledge of allegiance than even servitude on another’s recording.  Both working in their familiar forms (the newly-solo Buchla’s recognizable from his time in Gowns), the boys won’t make eye contact on this brief trip, but seem rather in a predetermined contest to out-mope one another.  However, as earnest as they are, this does not escalate into some bleak-wave bullshit nihilism, but stays this side the lowest thematic range that both have explored before.  Buchla’s “Black Rabbit” burns slow with layers of vocals and fragments of electric guitar and synthesizers, the tide quickly rising in a minimal noir which the lead Buchla tries to remain on top of, the sound of his craning neck audible in the pinch of his larynx.  Copious production evident, the interest in glitch germinating from back in Buchla’s Mae Shi days has matured to a depth and breadth of composition which excels beyond the mere novelties of its process and structure of its song.  This would be the method unifying the disc, as Payne’s “Scorpion” elevates his usual twee folk presentation with the addition of extra vocal dubs and cello, propped against a background of artificial night, made of black gauze and the chirp of crickets.  Still more evidently song-based, this contextualization is a fulfillment of so many foregone suggestions in Payne’s previous work – once a throwaway, now a total mode of expression.  Black vinyl discs come in a beautiful print on heavy paper sleeves and lyric inserts.

Folktale 7”

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