Chris Weisman

Transparency

Chris Weisman is a man who played every instrument heard on this recording. He captured it all straight to four-track tape, put in some light mastering, and released this 30-song behemoth of a record out with Greg Davis' Autumn Records. It's an album of songs. Real songs, about the songs, for the songs. They're studied, careful, and managed, but manic and jarring. This means they're a lot of fun. They're pop music - they're for you, too. Songs easy to love.

With simple guitar/double-tracked vocal arrangements, dotted on occasion with additional instruments like synths and drums, Weisman's songs aim first to delight. So on the top layer, you have singer-songerwriter: Elliott Smith, Destroyer's earlier work, etc. But of course, that's just the top. Within the first few strokes of guitar in every single tune, layers come to life. Especially with multiple spins, careful listening and some time, these songs begin to explore some pretty wild terrain, continuously unfolding with musical tricks, puzzles and games.

With Weisman's work, jazz musicians take an at-least equal precedence. He sites Paul Motian, Thelonious Monk, and Wayne Shorter among others as heavy contributors here, hard and post-bop figures in a kind of jazz that was all about extension and abandon. Those feelings are definitely felt here, too, filtered through a highly advanced understanding of the modern pop song and some truly unique experimentations with music theory. Something witty, perplexing, puzzling, actually quite challenging, comes out. Definitely a grower, but getting through at least one full, consecutive play, Transparency becomes something of a fly trap. Jazzy chord voicings, pivoting chord progressions and beautiful melodies are the bright light that sucks you in... then the kill—his lyrics.

Weisman's words do ballet with his music. He stuffs whip-smart syllables into calls/responses with his guitar. He waxes musico-philosophical ideas, up-hill-battle-bitterness and some deep, deep love-lorn-longing. The words of Transparency are bursting with colorful rhymes and clever alliterations ("The phantom of a flexible mind" is one of many favorites).There's also some... really weird and hilarious ones ("I don't believe in the Eastern Seaboard"...). But always smooth like silk, bouncy as a rubber ball, these lines roll off Weisman's tongue to answer questions with question marks, a constant "what's-next?"

For the complexity of the scales going into these songs, the surprising on-a-dime turns, off-kilter harmonic leaps, etc., Weisman still manages to be endlessly approachable and completely in tune with pop music sensibilities. Sure, the forms are all over the place, but at its core, Transparency simply cannot be anything but pop music. It is an inherent sweetness Weisman just can't hide. Sweet love songs, ballads, choruses, verses... They're here, but deconstructed; pieced back together with brass tacks and tape, the chords and instruments sort of hanging onto each other with thin threads of connectivity that combine into a pastel pastiche; sweet and soothing to the ears, but broken and a little bit misfit. Not so much awkward: extra-special.

There are a few outlying instrumental works, like "Bicycle," which is a frantic, irritated synth/guitar/drum-cycling nightmare that lasts for four+ minutes. Or, there's the very weird, very hilariously titled "The Beatles." But these short detours keep the two discs of the album engaging and even more deliciously unpredictable. And that's the thing that's got me the most: how unpredictable and out of character it is for me to be so flippin' obsessed with an album full of ... you know, songs. I love these songs. They're beautiful.

Crawf

Autumn Records Official Website

Chris Weisman Official Website

p.s. I recently completed an interview with Chris Weisman via e-mail. Look for it soon on Foxy Digitalis in the Features section.

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April 21st, 2011