I first developed a vicious bout of Weisman Fever sometime last year with the songwriter's instant-classic Transparency* (though I seriously doubt many other bloggers/listeners would claim such a charge against the gauntlet of a double-disc. Unabashed opinion: shit is brilliant). Though that record itself is a grower, there's also something about it that was instantly pleasing to the ears. It had to do with his adherance to that Elliott Smith singer-songwriter style, which was gently matched with harmonic hyper-gymnastics, sticky-sweet melodic material and bitingly sarcastic wit that caused my brain to do double backflips. Beatleboro isn't as immediately inviting, generally a lot stranger, his voice and instrumentals meandering through abstracted melodies that ping-pong between alien pitch relationships. Still (like its predecessor) obviously pop-related and equally obvious in its association to jazz and “out” theoretical approaches, it's nonetheless a slower grower. But grow it will and grow it does with some patient listening. The sonic map of Beatleboro is a winding, dizzying, confusing labyrinth for sure, but it's also an irresistably tantalizing prospect of a thing to explore and get hopelessly lost in. Where Transparency found Weisman challenging and expanding on a familiar style, here everything feels more exotic, like something new he's forging uniquely on his own; an especially twisted crack in the pane of today's already splintered pop forum.
The haphazardly cut puzzle Weisman creates on this tape from the newly minted OSR label is much more complex this time out, a 500 piece upped to something like 2,500. Again he's using some simple and familiar tools (guitar, voice, and multi-track recording device). But there's so much more here as well: synths, more guitars, many instruments lightly-to-heavily effected, a higher emphasis on the role of rhythmic devices and percussion, and then his voice all scrambled, biddy-biddy'd and backwards behind his words to create a nightmarish quality that many might find off-putting. And we mustn't count out the fact that the tape is called “Beatleboro“, partly named for his hometown of Brattleboro, VT and partly (duh!) after the mop-top hit-maker/game-changers. There's plenty of Lennon/McCartney here too, gently peppered with Sgt. Pepper-y melodies (some of the prettiest of which I've heard the man produce yet) and outlined with nice keyboard work, steady strums and consonant vocal harmonies. Lyrical games are again at play, Weisman looking critically at himself and society at large in “Human Microphone” or “Selfemoliationocity.” “Don't ask me how I got this way / I never bought anything on Ebay,” he sings, yet again distancing himself from things like hype, materialism, and (especially) modern day's obsessions with technology.
The songs and ideas of Beatleboro are fleeting—Weisman says this record was composed, recorded and dubbed to the tape's final cut in chronological order, mostly first-takes/first-attempts to capture these short bursts of ear-candy tinged in foreign flavors. I'd say that he's going completely crazy if it weren't for the fact that as the tape progresses, the overtly bizzarre nature of the songs tames down over time, finishing with a trio of generally very “normal” sounding tunes, punctuating the entirety of the 24-song marathon with “Keyboard Grey,” a relaxing, bed-ridden, pillowy push into an exhausted sleep—where Weisman must have landed after recording his way through this single month's worth of work, dreaming up his next batch of songs. No telling where those dreams will lead him next, but one thing's for sure, I'll be waiting to see for myself.
*Chris Weisman has had a release between Transparency and Beatleboro called Message From Work on Autumn Records, but since I'm not familiar with it, I stuck with Transparency for my main point of reference.