Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reviews:: Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir Ten Thousand

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Purity is music is an increasing rare thing. All too often bands look for a hot sound, try to replicate it and hope label execs or bloggers eat it up. RIYL or “man it sounds like x plus y” has replaced originality and risk. So when a band can bring something new to the table it’s worth your ear and unless you are versed in delta blues, foot stomp percussion and mountain roots, chances are the Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir isn’t going to fit nicely into any descriptor you might try and certainly aren’t going to sound like anything else you have on your shelf.

Considering the place they call home, the authenticity of the Agnostics is hard to question. It’s become fashionable to pick up a banjo or attack a slide, but unlike a lot of the new blues outfits, AMGC has a sound that could have been unearthed from a dust covered, warped piece of vinyl. The crackling energy the deliver on the furious finger picked title track takes you back to the times where a musician's soul was left on every track and the spirited, heartfelt tip of the cap to Son House they offer with a terrific take on Empire Night Express shows their respect for the music they play.

You might get an idea of what to expect on their new record with a simple look at the packaging. The cover is a Hell Note adorned with a photo of Son House and as the band seems to constantly ponder the eternity of life, you can’t help but wonder if the hope is to end up in a place where the music they love is valued. Led by Bob Keelaghan’s rough vocals – his vocal chords sound like they are being ripped apart every time he stretches to hit or extend a note – and supported by soulful harmonies, slide guitar, banjo, foot stomp and tub thumpin’ percussion, Ten Thousand is a tense journey to an all too often talked about crossroads. The Alberta quartet doesn’t stand up and pontificate and certainly doesn’t want you to decide between heaven and hell; the band is quite ready to let you simply stomp along in a sweaty frenzy (Life is Long or Stop That Thing), but they certainly don’t let the album float by without forcing you to look inside for some answers. No, the crossroads they take you to is a personal one.

Whether it’s realizing family and friends are fleeting (Go Back Home) or asking Bush to stand up and account for his mistakes (You Got It Wrong), the band lets the bigger questions fall to the wayside, preferring to stay deeply entrenched in the simplicities that make life living. At the end of the day or maybe more accurately at the end of your time, honesty, loyalty, and love are what matters and the AMGC want you think about your choices. Instead of treading in the grey, they try to simplify things into blacks and whites.

The little things also help fuel the record musically. Just by adding a constant hand clap to Go Back Home, dueling banjos on Got it Wrong, the hollow percussion that adds urgency to The Boig or the warbled horn that compliments the viscous slide on Never Be Dead, the band seem to find the perfect sound to add the right amount of depth to the “live” atmosphere of the recording. But to be honest, putting these emotions in words will always fall short. The Agnostics are best enjoyed through speakers or headphones cranked as loud as they can get. I could have spared you all the time you spent reading this by just saying Ten Thousand – f*ck yeah.


AMGC - Dumb it Down
AMGC - Go Back Home

Posted at 2:15 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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