Out of your speakers spills the new Sic Alps, out and onto the floor, splashing around your feet, up to your ankles, tossing worn clothes over your chair, unfurling like fast-moving slow-motion kudzu over your old records and countertops. Suddenly it’s everywhere, and you wonder if you’re crashing at their place when all along it seemed the other way around.
I’ve been back and forth and around the block with this record way too many times—(insert editor’s agreement here)—which shouldn’t be confused with having listened to it too many times, oh no. Anyway, at first and for a good while, it seemed the answer was in the mathy imbalance of songs (as in, things with structure and a hook) versus handfuls of slop—un- or partly formed lumps of lazily unevolved proto-songism. By my count (which I lost after analyzing the first 18 of the 22 tracks), Napa Asylum was one of those full-lengths that would do us much better service had it been edited down to an EP consisting only of the tunes that had like, you know, saleable goods: “Cement Surfboard” with its mind-blowingly copacetic slack-tango of Mike Donovan’s gracefully indolent vocal hook and that relaxed-fit pace, and—did he just namecheck Yabby You? Oh my my; the flowing-stream of “Zeppo Epp” with its elbow-macaroni guitar figure punctuating each line; the wild-eyed distortion and nihilistic soloing on “The First White Man to Touch California Soil.”
There are a few others that stand out, that have traits you can describe in compound adjectives, but many more that seem determined to do anything but, sounding more like psychedelic drips that kept falling from the psychedelic spigot after you’d turned off the damn psychedelic lights and passed out. And yet, I could never separate the good from the “bad” anywhere but on paper. This messy record came back to me every day and I never felt like skipping past the duds that were so clearly duds (weren’t they?). In time it became clear that it was all of a piece, and I paid no mind to the idea that three shambolic shaman would never plan it so—I mean, who plans? I didn’t plan to spend every day of 2011 so far with Napa Asylum, but it sure as hell happened. Shit, it’s speaking to me; it might be art, it might be about a kind of life, like an unnarrated documentary, but with words. Drip, drip, drip… [Drag City]
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