Former Urdog organist Jeff Knoch draws out a series of introspective harmonium-based contemplations on “Still Living in the Desert (and mostly in my own head), a Last Visible Dog Records release for his solo Eyes Like Saucers project.
At times Knoch’s purposely simplistic and childlike approach can be grating, especially on “Sea Song,” a track that alone recalls the ‘talent’ of Wesley Willis. However, gorgeous work like “Delusion of Reference,” and the album’s title cut more than compensate– and I have the suspicion that within a few more listens, the purpose of the more simplistic tracks will reveal itself.
“Still Living in the Desert,” in many ways, requires listeners to slow down quite a bit– while Knoch’s insistent playing can be forceful, it seems more focused on the pulse and breath of the harmonium than on any sort of keyboard flash. Often Knoch will repeat a short looping phrase, mutating it ever so slightly; by design or embraced accident, it is difficult to tell. “Numinosity” is a good example of this structure, mostly maintaining a small figure for around 7 minutes, and exploring variants of it along the way.
By album’s end, Knoch finally notices his ‘audience’ in “Desert Song” and calls to listeners, “meet me on the desert shore.” Part carnival, part inner conscience, it’s a fine ending to the album.
Overall, the sound of this disc is very nice. Being able to hear the air noise of the harmonium is essential, so anything less would have created a dramatically different listening experience. While not exactly an experimental album, I am enjoying Knoch’s individual take on an instrument I would have previously thought to have had a rather limited capacity for expression.
Knoch is on tour right now, btw– here’s some dates. There are more at his site.
7/27 – Catalyst Infoshop, Prescott, AZ, with Adam Frumhoff.
7/28 – Macy’s Coffee House (afternoon show), Flagstaff, AZ, with Adam Frumhoff.
7/28 – house show?, Flagstaff, AZ, with Adam Frumhoff.
7/30 – KXLU-FM, los angeles, CA.
7/30 – Echo Curio, Echo Park, CA, with Fantastic Ego, Sleepwalkers Local 242.
8/01 – Aquarius Records, in-store performance (5 pm), San Francisco.
8/01 – Hemlock Tavern, San Francisco, with Wooden Shjips, Appreciation.