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Album Review: Slim Twig, A Hound at the Hem

Posted by Aubrey Jax / December 9, 2012

SlimTwig Hound at the HemMax Turnbull, a.k.a. Slim Twig, took inspiration from Lolita for his new LP A Hound at the Hem. Though it's hard to catch many lyrics through his drawl, Turnbull's voice does catch the drift of a creepy uncle who acts like his tortured heart gives him a hall-pass for inappropriate lascivious behavior; there's definitely some Nick Cave vibes slinking around. Turnbull is an actor as well as a musician and he brings a campy yet convincing characterization to his music.

A Hound at the Hem was actually arranged and recorded two years ago on Toronto Island, and Turnbull has been tweaking the mix ever since. The result is an album that enters your ears like molasses; there's so much going on that at times the music demands complete attention to pick up on its nuances. The album's well earned "baroque psych" tag and its originality in general owe much to Owen Pallett's string arrangements, which lapse into organ melodies and rock instrumentation.

To catch all the details that make this art rock release live up to its promises, you'll need good speakers or headphones — in fact what becomes pleasantly disorienting on headphones will sound like Hunky Dory era David Bowie on weaker sound systems.

While "Blonde Ascending (Come in to the Clatter)" is the best example of A Hound's musical accomplishment, track two, "Clerical Collar," has a melody that won't quit, and will likely be the one that you find yourself humming afterward. It features spirited piano and harpsichord elements: baroque pop at its campy summit.

Though A Hound at the Hem sees Turnbull get into the mind and persona of Nabokov's lecherous and complicated creation, I feel he never touches on the fucked up reality that is statutory rape. The LP is a romp in the shadows rather than the real exploration of the dark side of humanity it could have been in more sensitive hands. Slim Twig never achieves the sonic emotional freak-out that would make this record an experimental gem — he instead presents a musical accomplishment laced with dark whimsy that will enter the Canadian indie™ canon as one of 2012's strongest without creating much social discussion.

Slim TwigThe album is out on both Toronto label Pleasence Records and Turnbull's own brand new label Calico Corp, which he runs with his partner Meg Remy, AKA U.S. Girls. Both Slim Twig and U.S. Girls release their respective fall albums (GEM, in U.S. Girl's case) in Toronto at the Silver Dollar on Thursday night. The last time I saw Slim Twig play, some random bro stole the mic and the band kept right on playing, so get ready for a theatrical show.



Ed / December 10, 2012 at 11:00 am
My previous comment about this article was removed; perhaps my use of a mild expletive exceeded the site's tolerance level. My point was this; given its qualified commentary about Twig's amazing new record, this review is all too typically equivocal. Despite U.S. and European approbation (“a new masterpiece”, “magnificent”, “a revelation”), here at home, writers damn with faint praise. According to the reviewer here, Twig's music and lyrics aren't sensitive enough to the troubling subject matter (seriously?), his originality is attributable to another musician (umm, good as they are, Pallett's records don't sound like this one), and the record won't generate a lot of “social discussion”. Well, here's my review, without being mealy-mouthed; A Hound at the Hem is one of the most original, daring and satisfying records in years. The more you listen, the better it gets. Twig's the real deal and has the goods to prove it.
JM / December 11, 2012 at 02:39 pm
Much as I’m loathe to rally along with a disgruntled message board commenter, I can certainly agree that it’s a shame Slim Twig gets such short thrift from the Canadian music press. Feels a bit uncouth to post it here, as I wrote the thing, but the themes of Lolita, and Slim Twig and US Girls’ outlook in general, is explored in some detail in this Stool Pigeon article: http://www.thestoolpigeon.co.uk/features/interview-slim-twig-and-meg-remy.html

The above is far from a bad review, but it’d be a shame if a record as good as this was treasured only outside the country that wrought it.
JM replying to a comment from JM / December 11, 2012 at 02:39 pm
*short shrift. Ha.
Seriously / December 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm
"I feel he never touches on the fucked up reality that is statutory rape."

WTF. What a strange and irrelevant critique of this album.
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