Album Review: Slim Twig, A Hound at the Hem
Max 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.
The 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.