How much longer will New Weird America be "new?" It's been nearly a decade since people started describing all kinds of acoustic string-based music with the "freak" modifier, and still we have random slices of this very scattered and broken genre creeping into the pop-music consciousness time and again—music that calls us back to an imagined understanding of the various tropes of "Americana" at its most general sense, and supremely fucks with that imagination. What we need is something newer than New Weird America. Something like New Weird Whole Damned History Of The World.
So in the mail comes this new, strange, beautifully packaged 12" LP (on purple vinyl... nice) from Chicago's Laughing Eye Weeping Eye, the duo comprised of Rebecca Schoenecker and Patrick Holbrook. There are moments of gospel and American spiritual song here (see especially closer cover of "Kumbaya")—but for the most part, LEWE is intriguing for how it avoids freak folk mainstays like the blues and 60s folk, instead channeling a new set of sources yet to be tapped by any weirdos I've come across in the contemporary moment. This is still Western stuff regardless, with its share of Irish tune, English court music, and maybe French chanson or even Gregorian chant too. And of course, it does all of this in a very Weird way (note the capital W), which should be your first "yeah, I'd like to hear this" sort of turn on. Weird like the vocals. Schoenecker's creepy chirps, sighing glissandos, whiney drones and operatic falsettos. Weird like the instrumentation, pumped with a heavy dose of harmonium, harps, hand-claps and horns, tambourines, bells, flutes and fiddles (NOT violins...), etc. Weird in the songs themselves and their disparate natures, coming together to form what feels like a children's play—a puppet show full of colorful characters, armies marching into battles, weeping maidens, pirates and the like.
Maybe (probably) a concept album, maybe not. The one problem is that this play—if it is one—is a bit hard to follow. I like all the characters. I like the situations they're in. But I have nary a clue as to how they really relate to one another. Nonetheless, Where Snakes & Seers Go triumphs due to the fact that it's a good band, doing weird things in weird new ways, and doing all of those things quite weirdly-well. They make an unbearably creepy voice listenable, relatable. They put that voice into charming, inventive songs. Some of those songs are actually very, very beautiful—"River of Golden Treasures" is sleeping-tune mixtape worthy with its gorgeous, humbling melodic meditations. Overall, great new band, bound to develop, expand, and extrapolate on their ideas into epics. I'd love to hear them take on the scope of a full-on production, score a film, or write and perform an actual musical or something. Here's hoping...
Laughing Eye Weeping Eye on Bandcamp (buy the record here)
Video for "O'er the Mountain"