“Headworms” ‘Uzi & Ari’
These past few days have been honey-dripping slow for myself personally, and my absence on Friday can only be explained by a majority of albums I just thought weren’t worth my while. I’ve truly scoured the net for hours on end looking for some hidden gems, and with the inadvertent closure of some of ‘Highly Evolved’s’ best music resources, things have been gobb-smackingly quiet. I delightfully awoke this morning to find myself adrift and at ease. Comfortably, I oozed towards the desk chair and opened up my browser. I know, I know, comments aren’t usually important, but I’d just like to blow my own trumpet and announce that I got a response for one of my reviews from THE ACTUAL ARTIST/S THEMSELVES!!!
Further details, check out my review on “Dirty Days” by ‘Flea Market Poets’. Enough of that, onwards, and I’ve been patiently listening to “Headworms” for the better part of five-days now. “Headworms” is an album full of surprises, eclectic musical compositions, and is a refreshing mix of acoustic, alternative, with a touch of indie, some electronica, and albeit minor, shoegaze. Check this:
Last night was a total blast – 6-hours of blissful entertainment, emphatic bass, and a general assortment of drunk and hallucinating individuals and assorted fellows: and what an eighteenth! I got into some heavy music conversations with my partner, Michael Hodder, and the discussions ranged throughout the night into the very wee-hours of the morning. The general conversation consisted mainly of our shared pain about our limited music resources:
“… I’m completely shattered,” I’d began.
“Utterly shattered…” he’d reply.
And that was that. Somewhere, although the mind wavers at this current hour, “Headworms” cropped up unexpectedly. Although the connections between ‘Arcade Fire’ are thready at best, ‘Uzi & Ari’ share with them one unique quality – and unmistakably, that’s time. Some albums, more specifically some tracks, just hit you like a ton of bricks. You either like them or you don’t, to be honest. For me, my introduction to ‘Arcade Fire’ dates back a few years ago with “Neon Bible”, and it took me a solid month to really appreciate all its qualities. In this sense, “Headworms” isn’t an album that you’ll suddenly like overnight, it takes dedication, and coming full-circle, it takes time.
Maybe I’m just trying to find an album so desperately to review, I’m unsure, but “Headworms” keeps you at the end of your tether, forever climbing upwards. Each and every time you listen, a totally new aspect of a track, say, or the lyrics, is realised – new perspectives come into focus. “Headworms” is an album full of exploration and re-discovery.
Musically, ‘Uzi & Ari’ bare a strange likeness to another one of my favourite bands, ‘Sigur Rós’. Okay, okay, lyrically, they’re worlds apart, but composition-wise, ‘Sigur Rós’‘ multi-instrumentation is something that ‘Uzi & Ari’ do share quite frequently. Where ‘Sigur Rós’ maintains a consistent post-rock-esque vibe with their music – their awe-inspiring vocalisation and spine-tingling guitar – ‘Uzi & Ari’ complement with string and brass for a generous mixture of sound. Of course, no two artists are ever truly the same, but these core elements – despite their differing incarnations – are fundamentally the same. With “Headworms”, you can expect both elec. and acou. guitar, and what drew me to the similarity between this and ‘Sigur Rós’ in the first place is the utilisation of brass, like the tuba, or the trumpet, from a perspective other than jazz. It’s really great, I thoroughly enjoy the dark, foreboding nature of the tuba, it’s a fantastic scene-setter and mood-maker.
“Missoula” opens for “Headworms”, and it’s a sudden introduction, with its quick, tickling-strum of acou. guitar, building synth, and violin. What keeps the track together on a whole is not the instruments, but the vocals.
“… All good… children… go to heaven…”
Are the lyrics that make up the violin-orientated chorus. It’s these juxtaposing sounds which make “Missoula” such an interesting track – where the acou. guitar keeps this emphatic pace, the violin creates tension, anxiety and crescendo. With the arrival of percussion, an explosion of elec. guitar at the 3-minute mark sees a strong contrast with the track’s beginning. With the clash of acou. and elec. instrumentation, this wonderful anti-crescendo sounds its finish. This mind-blowing introduction is only the tip of the iceberg.
Where “Missoula” utilised a mixture of acou. and elec., together with the key-instrument violin, “Wolf Eggs” sees a shift from acou. back to synth. Here, the focus isn’t just the vocals, but the xylophone, the tuba. Again, much like “Missoula”, these instruments come together to bring into focus the final crescendo that is “Wolf Eggs”.
I’m going to jump all the way to “Headworms” itself, which is probably the most ‘Sigur Rós’ influenced song that ‘Uzi & Ari’ have to offer – and that’s mostly because of the flitting distortions between left and right channels, together with distant percussion and eerie-vocalisation. The lyrics:
“… worms inside our head…”
Are fittingly disturbing – and the music reflects that same quality. The ghost-like, ethereal quality of the track itself – not to mention the entire album – makes it my favourite because it touches on a myriad of instruments to create these epic soundscapes. I’ll finish by quoting from their http://www.last.fm summary:
“Rioting quieter than most, Uzi & Ari seems to essentially be the solo project of one Ben Shepard, of Salt Lake City… These songs are well fleshed-out by an assortment of accomplished musicians, each lending their own nuances to proceedings, but at this album’s core beats the heart of a single man only…”
It has taken me a short time to fully understand the creature that is “Headworms”, and in such a short time-span, it will probably take even longer for me to fall in love with it completely. It’s a rare album because of its refined quality and it’s dark, despondent nature, and where some albums have incongruously-placed tracks, here I cannot find any.
Stand-out tracks: “Missoula”, “Wolf Eggs”, “Headworms”
The Enantiomorphic God