Giant Sand Chore of Enchantment (Thrill Jockey)

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Record Reviews

Giant Sand

Chore of Enchantment (Thrill Jockey)

This first release of new, studio-recorded material since 1994 from once-prolific Tucson veterans Giant Sand finds frontman Howe Gelb and his rhythm section (Calexico's Joey Burns and John Convertino) ripened and tightened following their hibernation. The short instrumental opener "Overture" sets in motion Chore's surprising electronic cheese factor with warped Fairlight strings and an opera snippet, which bleeds into a signature snakecharming tale of desert desperation ("Dusted"), only this time buoyed by sitar, Mellotron, and as the liner notes list, a "78rpm crackling notion." Then things get weird, with a brief foray into reggae ("X-tra Wide"), self-mocking punk ("1972"), and a cutesy update with backing vocals by Juliana Hatfield of a song from Gelb's 1998 solo outing Hisser ("Temptation of Egg"), which turns out to be the only regrettable song of the bunch. This is not a record languishing in novelty, however. There's an equal number of truly huge moments here, like the early-Tom Waitsy "Dirty From the Rain" and the love song to end all love songs, "Astonish." Then the strains of opera -- taken from a tape that belonged to the late Rainer Ptacek (to whom close friend and collaborator Gelb dedicates the album) -- return to thread through the Mellotron, Farfisa, and pedal steel heartbreaker "No Reply." Fusing swells of grief with the unbearable lightness of being, it's here that Gelb, et al. really drive home the beautiful paradox of Chore of Enchantment. (Friday, Austin Scottish Rite Theatre, 1am)


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