Six O'Clock Baby
(Bowels of Lunacy)
1/2 (out of 5)
Over the last six years, Diminished Men have been forging a distinctive, subliminally menacing back alley in the city's musicscape. The Seattle trio's instrumentals emerge from old, semifamiliar templates of surf rock, film-noir scores, and Ennio Morricone's genre-blending soundtrack work. It's easy for this approach to come off as pastiche, but Diminished Men's adroit playing and keen ability to twist formulaic tropes into interesting, fresh song forms elevate them above mere copyist status.
Six O'Clock Baby cobbles together stray oddities from the band's prodigious output; the resulting 11 tracks represent some of Diminished Men's most fascinating and exploratory material. Supreme case in point is the title track, an ominous orchestral overture in which the laws of gravity and sanity get undermined. "Lockout/Tagout" oozes out some subliminally eerie spy jazz, reminiscent of Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal's excellent '70s ECM recordings. The urgent, automaton cha-cha of "In Time" could've come straight from electronic-music pioneer Raymond Scott's lab, while "Nurse Hair Dub" puts that genre into an odd meter and immerses it in a threatening cauldron of ambience. "Excellent Cadavers" pits the stark post-rock dynamics of Can's "Mushroom" against the twinkling keyboards out of Bob James's "Nautilus." "Palm Sunday" uses rapid-fire bongo hits to evoke what a James Bond action sequence scored by Morricone might sound like. The CD closes in grand style with "Microphonic DST," a fucked-up waltz/jagged blues hybrid with distended guitar wails, and "The Freeze," which sounds like Morphine playing Miles Davis's Bitches Brew on a ship in choppy waters. Let's hope there are more such intriguing anomalies in Diminished Men's vaults.
Diminished Men play Thurs Feb 16 at Rat & Raven.