REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

The madcap laughs, and laughs, on Danielson (Famile) album bundle

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

Daniel Smith trips the light fantastic across a somewhat random 3 album collection of releases as Danielson that serve as a haphazard but intriguing introduction to a most singular voice and mind


Danielson Famile - A Prayer For Every Hour/ Fetch The Compass Kids/ Ships (OUT 21st APRIL)

  In one of the more idiosyncratic and interesting reissue packages Fire Records have seen fit to release the first, fifth and seventh releases from
Danielson mastermind Daniel Smith as a three CD bundle. Not for them the deluxe reissue with a gazillion bonus out takes and live performances, what you get instead seems to be as fitting an introduction as any to such an erratic sonic world. Which for the uninitiated such as I, proves to be a fascinating trip through growing pains, adolescence and graceful ageing. Listened to in sequence chronologically, each album represents a clear sonic progression from the last, skipping through the years with careless abandon with only ever-wonky psych sensibility as anchor. 1994's
A Prayer For Every Hour is the sound of pre-pubescent youth (almost literally as well as figuratively, Smith recording this as a mere whippersnapper and submitting it as his college thesis), establishing some of the core tenets that would follow; namely the strangled cat of a voice that's somewhere in the region of Daniel Johnson on helium and far more enjoyable than that descriptor probably suggests. Largely comprised of scratchy lo-fi bedroom ruminations of just Smith and guitar, it conjures Slay Tracks-era
Pavement and a very lo-fi
Neutral Milk Hotel, the lyric of
'Like A Vacuum' being particularly telling;
"I may appear to be silly but I laugh a lot more than you do". Lurch forward seven years and we have 2001's
Fetch The Compass Kids, Danielson now swollen to bona fide collective, Smith having enlisted his siblings and adopted the all-too apt moniker
Danielson Famille. And compared to the debut it's a fairly marked change with clean acoustic guitars and tuneful(ish) backing choir vying with Smith's strained vocals and percussive clatter in spirited and ramshackle fashion not too dissimilar to the charmingly erratic folky blues of
Blueberry Boat from
The Fiery Furnaces. Take the exuberantly off-kilter singalong of
'Sing To The Singer' or the Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention buffoonery of
'Fathom The Nine Fruits Pie' which is pretty much as bonkers as its name would suggest. Placing urgent piano chords at the fore throughout it's also reminiscent of a more anarchic
Architecture In Helsinki, the near harmonious chorus of
'Good News For The Pus Pickers' for instance, making all in all for a far more readily digestible concoction than the initial outing. Best of all the albums offered herewith though and proof that certain things get better with age is 2006's
Ships, Smith having by now reverted back to recording as
Danielson. Featuring contributions from the none too shabby likes of
Sufjan Stevens,
Deerhoof and
Why? this is the proclaimed
ambitious album and mere minutes in it's clear to hear why. Early anthemic
Arcade Fire collides with the batshit craziness of the
The Moldy Peaches on an album of folky prog full of snap rhythm changes, meandering band and an ever-quirky choir.  At times there's even hints of a lo-fi
White Stripes, Smith's disruptive yelps conjuring the sound of Jack White singing at 45rpm instead of 33rpm. Ultimately the rounding out of the instrumentation with brass and strings all beefs out the overall aesthetic and makes for an easier listen, the moments of punctuation more pronounced as on the driving surges of
'Time The Bald Sexton', and more forgiving of the wayward vocals. So, taking the three as a whole it's fair to say it's a singular and more than mildly diverting listen. The relatively random and presumably subjective selection of these three albums offers a novel way of immersing yourself into a back catalogue that's never dull and at times, curiously rewarding.
5/ 6/ 7 out of 10