David Grubbs – The Coxcomb [Review]

Released in 1999 on Rectangle Records

Recorded June, 1998

Artist: David Grubbs

Format: LP


The Coxcomb‘s side-long pieces of sparse avant-primitivism are equally abstract and hypnotic. The title track interprets Stephen Crane’s wild-west short story “The Blue Hotel” (1898) into minimalist folk-theater. While the story is based around drinking and card-game brawls between strangers at a Nebraskan hotel, the central acoustic-guitar motif is actually quite mellow, blending pastoralism and angularity in the way Grubb’s does best. A few soft-spoken vocalists take up the roles of Narrator, “The Cowboy”, and the doomed “Swede” (sung by DG). Subtle arrangements for trombones, cello, and saxophone add welcome depth and color during the track’s lusher moments.

On the flip-side is “Aux Noctambules”, a Tony Conrad-esque drone piece that begins with Grubbs playing a semi-dissonant high-frequency organ tone that sustains for the entire side. The unceasing tone becomes quite meditative as Grubbs adds and subtracts deeper harmonies below, with no small help from the soothing ambient phrases played by French guitarist Noel Akchote.

Style: Primitivist Theater, Avant-Folk Minimalism, Drone

Vibe: Pastoral, Alienation, Hypnotic, Abstract

Musical Attributes: Sparse, Theatrical, Repetitive, Minimalist, Acoustic

Instrumentation: Acoustic Guitar, Voices, Organ, Cello, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Saxophone

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