Following hot on the heels of the recent Looking For Leonard Sountrack is this new EP by Portastatic (Mac McCaughan). Joining him on this 5-song release is the amazing Ken Vandermark on saxophone and clarinet and Tim Mulvenna on percussion. Hatched as a collaboration for this last springs Noise Pop Festival in Chicago, it finds the three doing more improvised work on a variety of songs, including a couple reworkings of tracks by Portastatic, one by Vandermark, and an entirely new track as well.
Although McCaughan admits to being very nervous about collaborating (such a modest fellow), the tracks that were formerly pop numbers turn into extended and much more lush pieces with an amazing amount of energy under the new arrangements. Although only one of the tracks on the disc is actually recorded live (the closing "When You Crashed"), the stripped-down production in the studio by Steve Albini actually gives the whole disc an almost live feel (minus the crowd noise) that works very well.
The disc opens up with the track "Had" from clear back in 1993 and it's the one that gets the most dramatic re-working of any on the entire release. Taking the original track, the trio completely widen the scope of the track with new intros and outros, and turn a little pop track into one that runs over 8 minutes long, including a closing that borders on freakout. Vandermark takes a much more subdued role in the second track "Hey Salty," and the quiet clarinet turns it into an even more touching pop track. "Late Night Wait Around" moves things in a more jaunty direction while "Broken Arm" is probably the most somber track on the disc.
Smartly, the disc closes out with the only live recording on the disc, and although the segueway to the track is imperceptible, when the applause comes in after Vandermarks nice sax solo at the beginning, it sounds like people have been politely holding off until then. The track closes things out on a fairly upbeat note, and when applause again comes in at the end, it feels like the perfect little ending on the excellent little 30-minute release. It's definitely different than the usual Portastatic release, but unless you're an absolute pop purist, I doubt you'll find objection. McCaughan also shows he's one of the hardest working man in indie music.