Strangeways, here we come

Everysmithever push all kinds of boundaries
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  January 21, 2009

090123_beat_mian
MORE THAN A SIDE PROJECT: Everysmithever.

If you find yourself, as I do, absurdly enamored with the Cambiata's recently released self-titled disc, there's a tendency, upon hearing Cambiata frontman Chris Moulton has provided lyrics, guitar, and lead vocals for another project, to think: Bonus! But Everysmithever, who put out a self-titled full-length this fall and then promptly stopped playing shows, is more than a Cambiata side project.

The other half of the two-man project, the producer and multi-instrumentalist calling himself alternately Elsworth and Mike Koharian, is back in town and ready to team with Moulton to put on a welcome-back show of sorts supporting the Loups' CD release this weekend. It's worth a listen.

Of all the genres the Cambiata have explored on their three releases, Elsworth mines the one they've mostly ignored: hip-hop. Well, hip-hop in the way Moshe makes it, maybe: dense collections of beats and samples, brooding synths, a digital aesthetic. Paired with Moulton's emotionally charged vocals, and some of his most dire and dark lyrics, the result is a restless, manic, itchy kind of album. The eleven songs are often long, but sometimes fractured enough to seem like there are 25 songs here, and the vocals are alternately mixed so far forward as to burrow inside your eardrum and so far back they become nothing more than part of the soundscape.

"I Would and We Did," the album's opener, is the most indie-rock and conventional, filled with intentional grit and static and backed by shuffling beats like the Cure with swagger. Moulton's guitar whines and sneers right along with him, "Imagine a building on the wrong side of town/Where all the windows and doors were locked and boarded down/Would you try to break inside?"

I have a feeling Koharian would find a way. He's an adventurous type, biting Massive Attack's vibe (with Moulton as Elizabeth Fraser) in "Confession Breath," featuring conversational spoken word in "Fuck You Mikey" ("Edgar Allan Poe only had one suit to wear and he wore it around all day and died in it"), and building blocks of synthetic strings, backed by military drums, for the disturbing "The Ballad of Dead Young Men": "Oh, you dead young men/You just line my streets with defeat."

This morbidity is a recurring theme, but it's all escapist bravado. In the 13-minute-plus "As Requested," which sometimes seems like the tightest song on the disc, a mostly flamenco electric guitar teams with a distant drumbeat, while Moulton exhales that he's "gonna move myself to Texas/Become a mortician's assistant/Leave these ugly friends behind/Forget their existence." It's a song for starting over, coming right at the end, and after everything devolves into digital wash and creepy laughter, Moulton ends by repeating, "It's happy hour somewhere."

As many times as he says it, though, I'm not convinced he believes it.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached at sam_pfeifle@yahoo.com.

EVERYSMITHEVER + SOBER DEAD + MOTHER|FATHER + LOVERLESS | The Station, in Portland | January 24

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