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Greg Weeks | Slightly West (Acuarela)
Over two full-lengths, two EPs and a not inconsiderable number of compilation appearances, Greg Weeks has assembled a wealth of material that, as 'Slightly West' (the second of those EPs) exemplifies, traverses and fuses styles classifiable as folk and psychedelia, but transcends such simple categorisation.

Emotive and vulnerable, Weeks' voice relates tales that resonate with frailty and longing, but never fall prey to the pitfalls of the earnest singer-songwriter. Instead, with lyrics that strike a balance between occluded confessionals and a fragmented dream-diary, he is a master of evocative prose. Meanwhile the provocative incongruity of his musical canvas (which on 'Slightly West' consolidates the unnerving drones of his last album, 'Awake Like Sleep', and the sparse acoustic fragility of first EP, 'Bleecker Station'), reminds the listener that this is no fairy-tale recitation, but more a soundtrack to the fitful sleep-state that follows.

Opener One Summer Night begins with a stately, two chord, keyboard progression and a simple bass-line, Weeks intoning "One summer night / by firelight / we laid out under the stars / and set our sights" before the gradual introduction of a percussive guitar figure, further keyboard patterns and Victoria Croog's breathy harmony. The following Unsettled (by the Sun) finds Weeks in less challenging mode, a lilting acoustic guitar and a steadily rising rhythm section underpinning a suitably dream-fuelled rumination; "Once inside a dream / you schemed to bring things back / to how they were before / And settled by the sun / you felt the chosen one / that all you had to do / was dream your nightmares out of you." The title track is a classic example of Weeks' craft, a lazy tempo and the record's most poignant vocal (Croog again adding seductive lushness), temporarily pushed aside by an intrusive and contrary lead break, a tone further explored on Devils, which counters another disarming vocal melody with the gothic overtones of its organ phrases. Settle Down brings things to a close with soothing washes of sound and a prophetic lyric, "there will be no quick solutions...once you've bloodied your black name."

Armed with the vintage equipment of Olympia's Dub Narcotic studios, (described by Greg as "a perfect match for the album's sound. All vintage and noisy and perfectly attenuated for gnarled sublimity"), Weeks and his accomplices Jesse Sparhawk, Croog and Adam Forkner have crafted an EP that is not, as he is keen to point out, "a dumping ground for live tracks, or cuts that weren't good enough to make the full-length." Indeed, 'Slightly West' is Weeks' most accessible release since his debut album, 'Fire In The Arms of The Sun' (1998), and its five songs are thematically linked by, in his own words, "a desire to reclaim an aspect of the past (60s/70s) and the West (as an iconic image of freedom, expansion, possibility and liberalism), only with a creeping feeling that no matter how far you move towards any of these things, it is only so long before what you struggled to flee catches up to you. And yet still, there is individual transcendence possible, under even the worst of circumstances. You can atone for your sins, and rail against the sins of society without succumbing."

Packaged in suitably sinful artwork courtesy of Tracy Nakayama, 'Slightly West' is a defiantly realised addition to Weeks' discography, a suitably concise introduction for the uninitiated, and an unequivocal success.

Matt Dornan
March-April 2003