1996, Music

Upgrade & Afterlife (1996) by Gastr del Sol

I’m doing it again, coming at a band backwards. (For the nth time.) I’ve only ever heard Camoufleur, reputed to be Gastr del Sol’s most accessible album – a claim this one bears out.

Gastr del Soul have a unique, idiosyncratic sound. I can’t really think of another band that does anything like what they do, even in the realm of post rock. (The only comparisons I can think of use samples in place of Grubbs’ songs but even then, it feels like a false comparison.) Their fusion of droning instruments, noise, samples and, um, folk music doesn’t make any sense on paper but somehow makes sense on record.

Speaking of the folk songs, I’ve never heard Bastro but I remain utterly baffled by Grubbs’ journey from Squirrel Bait to folk singer in a post rock group. It’s certainly not anything anybody could have seen coming.

This isn’t the most consistent record. It’s safe to say that if you like “Rebecca Sylvester,” for example, it’s unlikely you’ll like most of the rest of the album unless you’re pretty open-minded or you no what you’re getting into. As I said before, it’s a fusion that doesn’t make any sense on paper. I was expecting it, though. Even though Camoufleur is much more accessible (I’d say) I did have some idea of what I was in for.

Though I’ve mostly aged out of my “impressed by crazy artistic things that don’t necessarily make sense” phase, there is still much here that does it for me. And I can’t really get over how distinct they are from basically every other post rock band, at least some of the time. (If you can even call it post rock. Only a couple of songs really fit that for me.) There’s something to be said for sounding like nobody else.

And, of course, it helps that I like it. No matter how incongruous it is to have the folk stuff next to the, um, other stuff, I like what they do.


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