Even if he wanted to, Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb couldn’t repeat himself. Just watch him sing sometime; the guy’s got two vocal mics, one distorted, one clean, and he doesn’t make up his mind which one he’ll be singing into until he’s halfway through his line. Tucson (Fire), Gelb’s latest release (credited to Giant Giant Sand), is named after his Arizona hometown. He will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.
“Time for recording another album, a kind of harvest ritual, but why do it anymore?”
Gelb: The thought made me stop the process this afternoon, even though it was the last day in the studio with way too much to get done to consider pausing. I noticed I’d been coming in later and later for my own session and, in lieu of a therapist, figured I’d waste more time in the studio discussing why we ever even buy albums at all and came up with five reasons … almost.
1. When your favorite songster was finally getting around to releasing something new. The air grew electrical with anticipation because nowhere else could you get the gems but at a music store. But that urge has faded. Why is that ? Do we have enough gems by now? Maybe more then we’ll ever need ?
2. Every now and then an established artist would do something to stir up the dust and the particles would be charged again with anticipation and hearsay, like when Paul Simon had an Afro band; what could that possibly sound like ? Or when Bruce Springsteen made an album at home with a four-track cassette deck, when the why and how of that pleaded for a listen, how can you not dive into that soundscape just to witness? These days everyone has a home recording studio on their lap with way too many tracks to overpopulate, and Africa is really not that far away any more is it ? Is there anything new under the sun to mash up ?
3. A new band, with mysterious affiliations and a bizarre mix of styles, well, you just had to check ‘em out and get in on the ground floor of something with such promise. But not so much anymore when they keep churning out “new” only for the uninitiated, and for the lips, well, it’s harder to sing without them I guess.
5. Then to go back to vintage land: remembering and rediscovering the sessions that were good and stayed good with every repetitive listening through the onslaught of years piling up. Those old jazz records still deliver coded information way up here in the future. Seemingly a safe bet those records always will do that, but not on mp3; that’s a heartbreak waiting to give you a headache.
6. Mystery CD. What the hell is this thing? It has been lying around in this box for more than a year—where did it even come from? What’s with that nutty cover art. Hmmm, maybe you decide to throw it on before ya throw it out and then bammo! Chicha Cumbias from Peru circa the ‘60s—how did that happen? Maybe someone collected them all at a small hidden record label in New York City run by a French man they called “Olivier,” and he handed it over to a kid named Brian in a band from Arizona on tour one night for good luck. Ahhh, the serendipitous distribution system still has legs and a lovely ripple effect, too.
Video after the jump.