((Sounder)) featuring Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Swallowed By The Mist, 7”, 2014

volcom frontFirstly, I’m not American, so I’m unfamiliar with the brand Volcom, who produce clothing and gear for boardheads, meaning skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing. Of these three, snowboarding is my personal pick of the bunch. Anyway, it’s common knowledge that Will Oldham enjoys a spot of surfing. He once played a role in short film Slitch as a “mentally unbalanced surfer.” He was also supposed to be scoring a documentary on the life of Peter Drouyn, an Australian surfer, with Matt Sweeney according to web sources dating back to 2012 but I’ve not heard anything more about that. Finally, he put out a 7” single in 2014 called “We Love Our Hole” which appeared on the soundtrack for another Aussie surfing film called Spirit of Akasha released that same year.

volcom pictureSecondly, who are the mysterious ((Sounder))? Buried deep between parentheses, they’re an alternative folk-rock band from Austin, Texas, I think, but both members’ primary medium seems to be visual art. They have a connection to Volcom because their first two CDs were also released by Volcom Entertainment. The whole project has a whiff of the extended outdoor sports commercial about it. Presumably they play the music and share singing duty with Oldham on this track. Main member Mike Aho also happened to be the director of the film True To This that is part of this package along with book, documentary and 7” wax. The song “Swallowed By The Mist” only appears at the end of the film and even then it’s only the first three verses. As for the film, it’s the standard kind of thing you might see on a screen in a sports store at a winter resort – lots of quick edit cuts of skaterboys, boarders and surfers doing stunts and leaps with a “woah dude” aesthetic. Smells like the 90s, like totally.

volcom labelSwallowed By The Mist… and the song is an ode to the visceral pleasures of the road, the mountain and the ocean in a “honey, if you need to find me / I’m swallowed by the mist” kind of way, the mist being sea, gravel and snow spray. Of the road “rushing like a river,” the singer is “captive to its grip” and the only partner he needs on this journey towards truth is the “quiet whisper” of “elation.” But there’s a dark side and a suggestion that the freedom of speed is an escape from “the devil’s bloody fist” and the dark night. Whether hanging ten, riding ridges or sliding down staircase rails, members of this thrill-seeking tribe are “doors that swing wide open” in search of that freedom that leads them “longing, true to this.” And so we end with the catchphrase/title of the movie True To This, meaning freedom, or “youth against establishment”—a phrase that appears in one of the DVD’s bonus features. The song begins with a slow strummed guitar, sounding like early 70s MOR though with millennial glitch and fuzzy electronics faintly filling in the background. Oldham joins on the second verse, where the bass tones come to the fore, and the song has a familiar build to its structure which gets undermined by deliberately murky production, but it’s a nice tune, almost anthemic in tone, big-hearted and melancholy and wide-eyed and life-affirming. The voices almost get buried in weird noisy organ tones that hover behind the plodding beat and slowly strummed guitar, although the resultant effect is more one of poor production than edgy alternative rock. However, the song becomes more discordant with grinding offkey guitar chords taking the song into a weird dark place towards the end, with warbling electronics and general breakdown.

volcom backThis piece of music was also released on “super hi-tech” white 7″ flexi vinyl, issued with a magazine put out by the Monster Children brand, trendsetter in streetwear and art-photo periodicals, specifically Monster Children #42, although it didn’t come with every copy so you had to try your luck when ordering. The 7″ I obtained for this review is proper vinyl, and the B-side is etched with a mandala pattern (see below).

 

 

 

volcom vinyl etching

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About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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