Week in Pop: Bret Koontz, Rock Abruham, Shmu, Sour Notes

Sjimon Gompers

Talking bars & brews with Rock Abruham; photographed by Enoch the 7th Prophet.

Bret Koontz

The brilliant world of Bret Koontz; press photo courtesy of the artist.

Chicago’s Bret Koontz makes music that can match some of the best tunesmiths & songwriters of the twentieth century. Every note delivered by string, woodwind, vocal & more resounds with a curious cadence like those vague lullabies recalled from infancy played by parents on dilapidated cassette tape boom-boxes. Koontz has the ability to thaw that element of crystallization where the pastorals of the past are resurrected to resume their former glory in the present moment; full of feeling & a reckoning that brings the all but forgotten sentiments of yesterday closer to the compasses that point to future directions.

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Presenting the world premiere for the holistic music video “Walk” (featured off Low Light Trades), Bret Koontz enlists the Sliding Board Productions team of Bob Ness & David T. Kindler to capture the essence of which these sorts of songs were created. Strumming an earthly acoustic guitar, Bret is joined by bassist Chip Hamlett, violinist Fumo Stromboli & an audience that includes Jeff Graupner, Jake Acosta, Crawford Philleo, Molly Hewitt, Dave Rader who all become entranced & enraptured into the moment of mystic balladry. Expanding the chapters of poetic verse by picking up where romantic poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge left off—”Walk” takes the listener for a stroll deep into the realms that extend beyond Xanadu that the conventions of folk framework alone cannot fully contain. Bret breaks a proverbial bows off the troubadour tree to use a metaphoric staff to take into account everything from the elements, the tides of life, the cycles of the season to the passings of each day & night that reach toward an enchanted coach house of infinite inspiration (and perhaps some strange sort of pagan magic).

Bret Koontz shared the following insightful reflections on the album Low Light Trades, the video for “Walk” & more:

I recorded Low Light Trades at my place—a coach house on the border of Logan Square and Hermosa Park. The tracks on this album represent my return to acoustic-oriented music after focusing on synth pop and experimental music with Cool Memories, Rind, and other bands in the Chicago underground. I’ve had some of these songs in my back pocket for years; I’d play them around the campfire after the show or at a friend’s birthday party. At some point I realized that people were responding to this music in a different way than other material I was doing—that it was impactful on another level. That was the motivation for making this recording: to explore that exchange more deeply and see how far I could run with it.

The music video for “Walk” reflects this. It recreates the type of environs these songs were born from and exist in. Set at the coach house as an autumn day turns to night, we perform the song at what appears to be a low-key yet slightly surreal backyard gathering. This subtle intersection of realism and expressionism gets to the center of what the song—and the whole album, really—is all about.

“Walk” is sort of my Kubla Khan. Like Coleridge’s trippy description of Xanadu, there is an underlying darkness to its jubilant imagery. The narrator is hiking through the woods in a bit of an altered state, experiences ecstatic visions, and becomes lost in them. It’s about finding yourself in a moment, becoming aware that the moment is slipping away, and realizing that you are being swept away as well. The initial lyrics and vocal ideas came from wandering around a section of the Appalachian Trail with a friend. We were having a really good time and only a little worried that we had missed the one turnoff that would lead us back to civilization. It’s a hopeful song that is tempered by the general gravity of things.

The video was shot by Bob Ness (Sliding Board Productions“>Sliding Board Productions) & David T Kindler (DTKindler Photography) and the cast are all members of the Chicago Art-underground community. Big thanks to them for continuing to collaborate with and inspire me.

Low Light Trades is available now.

Catch Bret Koontz & John Bellows on the following west coast tour dates:

10 – Seattle – Woodland Theater
12 – Bellingham – TBA
12 – Olympia – TBA
13 – Portland – The Fixin’ To w/ Dragging an Ox Through Water
15 – Oakland TBA
16 – Pomona – DA Center for the Arts
17 – LA – Ham & Eggs Tavern w/ Athleisure, Syko Friend

Check out Bret’s website for more multimedia arts.

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