David Grubbs
An Optimist Notes the Dusk

[Drag City, www.dragcity.com]

I'm ashamed to admit I've not followed David Grubbs output closely since the days of Gastr del Sol. His latest album leaves me with a feeling of dread and uneasiness. I tend to shake and quiver after hearing music that is left to fend on its own without specific conclusion. Sure, there are songs here, but it's the experiments that work best. Not since "Thirty Minute Raven" has Grubbs made such a definite statement as he does within the confines of this record. The album is broken up into two unequal sections - the songs and the instrumentals. Songs are superb and hold their own very well. "Gethesemani Night" is a lonely man playing his electric guitar. While Nate Wooley plays occasional trumpet sways, Grubbs sings [grumbles?] in a nonchalant manner and plays riffs that stop in mid air. Electric riffs that populate "An Optimist Declines" are charged with possibilities, but possibilities of what? Should Grubbs be rocking-out in a more direct fashion is not for me to conclude. The weariness and second-guessing on "Eyeglasses of Kentucky" is revelatory. As Grubbs strums on the strings of his electric guitar, I tend to take in the pauses and silence that is often placed between. "Storm Sequence" points to Loren Connors as someone that is tops on Grubbs' list of influences. The stark stops and pauses make a number that is charged with electricity of what could be. The album ends with a twelve minute "The Not-so-Distant". With Michael Evans on delicate percussion and Nate Wooley's muted trumpet, Grubbs takes on a field of atmospherics. Slowly grumbling noises filter in and out of sight. Creepy stereophonic sound that is masterfully crafted and delivered in a most patient way. This is music that goes nowhere but then you ask yourself, where do you want your music to go? Should I have been expecting a more definite conclusion in these six numbers? Should I be disappointed that I'm left with more questions than answers? Absolutely not!

- Tom Sekowski

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