LAYERED Jackson, Ulmschneider, and MacDougall.
Six Star General continue to crank out top-shelf indie-rock records, and their eighth studio effort, Splinter, finds guitarist Kyle Jackson, drummer Dan Ulmschneider, and bassist/vocalist Mark MacDougall peaking hard through concise and potent bursts of stoner sludge." Pick up a copy at the CD release party this weekend (three bands for three bucks!). And alt-rock fossils still hooked on vintage Dinosaur Jr., Silkworm, and Archers of Loaf should dig deep into their back catalog, available (and highly affordable) at 75orlessrecords.com.
Last month, Six Star General's Facebook page proudly declared "Embrace the psychedelic!" following the first round of Splinter mixes. Credit producer and local veteran musician Kraig Jordan (also of the Masons), whose Plan of a Boy studio (in his garage) has become the go-to recording spot for SSG, having cut their share of a split EP with the Blood Moons (released earlier this year) and the majority of 2011's Six (Jordan added keyboard effects to "Weathered Homes," which won Best Song in our 2011 music poll). When I caught up with "Slick" MacDougall following the EP release, he acknowledged Jordan's role as an unofficial fourth member and told me, "Recording with Kraig has taught us to start thinking about the layers of the music."
Look up "Sonic Boom" from that EP (the SSG side is titled These Woods Smell Like Grape), a garage rock thumper with Jackson's trademark wah-wah working overtime. The confidence and camaraderie with Jordan were evident when I sat in for a recording session of Six, as the trio plowed through track after track, most in just one take. But Splinter was recorded in five sessions over two months, a marathon by SSG standards.
Layers of Jackson's guitar work resonate across Splinter cuts on "Nerve" and "Triple EEE" (named for the three generations of Emerson Torreys, according to MacDougall); listen closely and you'll hear Jordan yelling through a bullhorn with swirling echoes.
"As we mixed it we realized it was a genuinely weird and creepy tune, reminding me of early Butthole Surfers," MacDougall said.
"Nerve" is a personal favorite, with MacDougall's bassline skipping along while he subtly sneers, "You got a lot of nerve, but I've never seen it"; Jackson's UFO-summoning squalls pass through and Ulmschneider's fills are, as always, on target. But the trio really let loose in the final 60 seconds. That's what Splinter is all about. MacDougall also provided insight behind "Theme for Renee Montagne."
"My girlfriend listens to NPR every morning and Renee Montagne is the only name I can remember," he said. "We think her newscasts would be much more dramatic with our song playing under her.
"We have a friend at NPR who has promised to deliver a copy of the album to her."
75orLess brethren Mark Cutler, Bill Keough (Galvanize), and Joe Traynor (Vertical Twin) conjure a garage rock choir on a few tracks, including the opener "Feeling Ungroovy," and the band reworked two cuts from the previous EP ("Gasoline" and "No Steak in Cake"). "When we did the vinyl, we wanted to knock out the recording pretty quickly, so we had a ton of ideas we didn't use," MacDougall recalled. "So we went back and screwed around with them. Weird and much noisier this time around."