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31 Knots - The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere

 
There are times I think we might be stretching a little too far in our thirst for originality. When my friend asks what I’m listening to lately, and I tell her (with a straight face) that I’m hooked on an album with an opening track that sounds like “sinister robot circus music,” I have to stop and remind myself how weird I sound. It’s times like these I think I’m not cut out for this lifestyle — that maybe I should ditch the independent scene, regress to more accessible gods like Zeppelin or Coldplay, and saunter off to cultivate my false sense of superiority through other avenues.

On the other hand — aww, fuck it! As our good pal Philip K. Dick said, “sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.” And therein lies the appeal of The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere, the new disc by 31 Knots. Line up machinery squeals and muddy bass drums, kiss ’em against a near-Spoon piano line cooing in the background, top it off with a carnie lyricist growling through megaphone-tinted vocal cords, and you’ve got “Beauty” — the intro to an album that only gets weirder and more satisfying as it rolls on.

Don’t get me wrong — by no means should you chalk this up to a novelty album. There is depth and variety here, a collection defined by the turns it takes, whether sharp or subtle. Just as you’re about to file away the instrumentation as noisy and reckless, and the lyricism as sinister, “Hit List Shakes” turns all abstract-feely on you: “think of a number between one and itself / I can hear a million that you could taste, touch and smell / or a letter, yes, / that might work better / so you could have a story to tell.” Nothing short of an ethereal, modern limerick. These lyrics gain texture against the hollow, scratchy instrumentation, which sounds like a council of spiders tiptoeing over an aluminum can - maybe one you were holding up to your ear like a seashell.

And “Pulse of a Decimal” does more with less, stripping away the dominant grip the distortion pedal exerts over most of the album, in favor of clean, fluid piano and a stuttering, drum-driven crescendo. Intentional or not, the wavering pitch vocalist Joe Haege hits on the word “damaged” — coupled with the antiquity of the piano — so fiercely recalls Kazu Makino’s delivery in Blonde Redhead’s “For the Damaged Mother” that it’s hard not to let the frailty of each song bleed into the other. “Walk With Caution,” carries out this spacey tension to the end of the album, featuring angelic harmonies over bellowing flickers of static. And what a summary: the album thrives off of tension between incongruent forces, and as the angels and the static fade out (along with the piano and eerie organs), you’re left with a dash of schizophrenia you feel you may never mend. But you’re also left with the sense that maybe you’ll never want to.

-Phillip Taylor-Parker
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