"Alec K. Redfearn" and "accessible" sharing the same sentence? The apocalypse indeed is upon us, as composer/songwriter/accordion maestro Redfearn and his mind-bending misfit orchestra known as the Eyesores create a worldly, dark and, haunting barrage of sound on the new album Sister Death (Cuneiform Records).
SNAKE CHARMERS Redfearn (front) and company.
Alec K. Redfearn & the Eyesores have released a handful of albums over the past 15 years, appearing regularly as nominees in our music poll, filed under "Genre-Defying." The definition-dodging category is apt.
"I have always eschewed involvements in genres and movements because it automatically gives you a shelf life," Redfearn said.
Harmonica, violin, banjo, and uke are twisted and morphed into sinister yet harmonious sounds, while Redfearn and his accordion lead the proceedings on Sister Death. He has love, betrayal, and death on his mind, translated through imagery rife with fire and snakes. The album was recorded at Machines with Magnets, which fully captures the oddly captivating dozen tunes here. And the addition of vocalist/keyboardist Orion Rigel Dommisse sounds like a natural fit right from the opening track, "Fire Shuffle."
"Orion is insanely talented and has an incredibly unique voice," Redfearn commended.
Redfearn & the Eyesores let loose on the spirited cuts "Shuffle" (in which Redfearn runs his accordion through a Crybaby effect pedal) and "Hashihin" ("inspired by Hawkwind as well as the Turkish psych-rock bands of the '70s"), so I can understand where he's coming from when he states proudly, "This is the most accessible of the Redfearn & Eyesores releases thus far."
Still, Sister Death is unlike anything you've heard this year, and still boasts the qualities that Redfearn fans have come to expect and embrace.
"My melodic obsessions and idiosyncrasies remain imbedded in the music," he said.
Redfearn's renowned accordion skills were developed thanks in part to the advent of grunge music. His allegiance to the burgeoning '70s and '80s punk/hardcore scene was jaded, so he picked up the accordion out of spite.
"Bands like Butthole Surfers and Sonic Youth were producing this incredibly menacing and really bold, mysterious music," he said. "It felt like a golden era of ultra-weird was about to hit it big but instead — grunge hit.
"I taught myself accordion as a reaction to that, my version of a 'fuck you' to the rock world.
"But then I got obsessed with it."
The accordion led him to British folk and Indian classical music, heard across Sister Death. "Unawake" features the renowned Irish fiddle father/daughter team of Jimmy and Hannah Devine, plus a clawhammer banjo solo courtesy of friend Don Larson (who has wielded his banjo and uke for Death Vessel). "The Seven and Six" references sex and more death, while "Longreach" and "Exhumed" were inspired partly by the theme to Rosemary's Baby, according to Redfearn. He noted "Wings of the Magpie" for its Ethiopian-inspired rhythms, but "the lyrics are stream-of-conscious strangeness and I could only explain the meaning if I was under hypnosis," he told me. The standout, woozy lullaby "In the Morning" closes the album.
Pick up Sister Death at cuneiformrecords.com.
ALEC K. REDFEARN & THE EYESORES + RIC ROYER + ORION RIGEL DOMMISSE | Thursday, October 4 @ 9 pm | AS220 Black Box Theatre, 95 Empire St, Providence | $8 | 401.831.9327 + ALEC K REDFEARN & THE EYESORES + CUDDLE MAGIC | Saturday, October 6 @ 8 pm | Lily Pads, 27 North Rd, Peace Dale | aleckredfearn.com