ELECTRIFYING There’s old folk in the Points North’s music — but also modern, sidewalk grime.
I'm sick and tired of music bossing everybody around. It's as if every song by every artist simply must command us to revolt against some situation or other, feel some pre-specified sentiment, or party like a motherfucker. Even the bulk of softer tunes seem designed to make big, noisy things happen.
But rules always have exceptions. The Points North, who entertain at Club Passim tonight (Thursday), dispense electricity-optional folk that doesn't need to be pushy. I Saw Across the Sound (Grinding Tapes) plays out like a series of Joycean epiphanies, concerned not with fury and fighting and fucking and bullshit, but with moments of tranquil hyper-consciousness amid all the bedlam.
Of course, we all indulge in some fury and bullshit now and again. But there's also something to be said for whatever can inspire without an agenda. The Points become agitated when they're likened to a Renaissance-fair band. Yes, they do favor octave mandolin, Irish flute, and tin whistle. But they also deploy bass synthesizer and drums. So there's some legitimate grime here. If there's one thing they do share with the music of the troubadours, it's a lyrical resourcefulness, as in their "Recycling Song": "My arms are made from used paper towel rolls/My heart's made of orange peels/Four weeks old."
"The whole sound comes from a desire to paint with different colors," Chris North Alspach discloses, assembled with the rest of the Points on his porch, which is tucked away on a Jamaica Plain side street. "We're trying to find influences from literature and landscapes, and synthesize those directly into music."
It took a couple of years and a bit of globetrotting to flesh out this paradigm. Alspach and co-vocalist/flutist Regina Peterson collected drummer — and fellow child of Central Massachusetts — Dylan Clark in Pennsylvania while touring as their earlier project, Saint Joe Hazelwood. Operator of low-end mechanisms Evan Foudray hitched on after meeting the Points at a gig in Maine.
An especially auspicious Points recital took place last summer in Cambridge when they opened for Adam Casey, a/k/a the Boy Who Spoke Clouds, whose desolate minimalist compositions make the Points sound like the Mentors. Casey developed a band crush so potent, he offered the Points a freakishly rare opportunity to tour his native Australia. During their voluntary exile Down Under, they embarked on a 10-day recording session at a Victoria art space. The result will be their second full-length, or a series of seven-inch EPs — or something else, depending on what they decide once the mixing process concludes. In the meantime, an instrumental from those sessions, "Long Love Inn," has surfaced on their MySpace page.
"The vibe down there really made sense to us," says Alspach. "It was a bizarre New England in a lot of ways. It's a different culture that developed in a similar way. That's something we always tried to connect with back home — where we live, and how the civilization formed. Australia has a similar colonization history, but we were looking for the differences a lot of the time."