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May 23rd 2007

The Kallikak Family
May 23rd 2007

Andrew Peterson (the main force behind The Kallikak Family) hails from the fertile musical grounds of the Portland Oregon area and has collaborated with everyone from Phil Elvrum (The Microphones) to Adam Forkner (Yume Bitsu) and others. May 23rd 2007 is his concept album about portraying events and locations in the life of a person who has been told by a fortune teller that they would die on the album-titled date. The release is a highly-varied sonic collage, mixing acoustic instrumentation, programmed electronics, field recordings, vocals, and a little bit of everything else into a sometimes-disorienting hodge-podge.

In terms of raw materials, the group doesn't really resemble other artists who use some of the same elements. They're nowhere near as musical as The Books and they're a bit more challenging than Alejandra & Aeron. They do have things in common with some of the more ramshackle moments of Gastr Del Sol, and they also have some mutual eccentricities with the weird atmospherics of bands that find a home on Family Vineyard (minus all the digital whatnots). One thing The Kallikak Family does have going for them is that the album never gets stuck in place for too long. Seventeen tracks run under forty minutes in total time and even if something doesn't rub you the right way, chances are it will be on its way shortly.

"Organ Tuning / Surgery" opens the release with wiping, organ drones that bleed into the title track of "May 23rd 2007," one of the album standouts. On the track, skittery programming mixes with haunting female choirs, stuck keyboard tones, and squiggling electronics for a track that's always on the move. Elsewhere, feedback hum morphs into cathedral bell field recordings on "Bells In Bergamo," found-sound percussion breakbeats propel "Portland, Oregon Part 4," and "Miking A Drumkit" is one minute of hissing, squelching glitchery that never really takes shape.

For all the cutting and pasting and mashing of elements, two of the more engaging tracks on the album are also the most stark. "Guitar 1" and "Guitar 2" are both tracks played with two-part acoustic guitar, and their delicacy and warmth (especially that of the latter) outweigh everything else on the entire release. Towards the end of the album, many of the elements that showed up previously (ghostly female choir, field recordings of kids, etc) all come together for a couple great closing tracks, but the overall feel of the album is one that doesn't always progress with much rhyme or reason. There are definitely great moments, but as a whole feels a bit rough around the edges (which might be part of the charm given your particular tastes).

Rating: 7.25