Fans of modern experimental and electronic music are at least loosely familiar with Chicago-based record label Hausu Mountain. Run by two members of prolific experimental act Good Willsmith, Hausu Mountain touches on a little bit of everything one would want in the underground. Looking for serene ambient? They've got it. Jagged cut-and-paste beats to make for disconcerting hip-hop? Easy. Noise disguised as something far prettier? Pick from dozens of choices.
It makes sense, then, that something cut from the same sonic (if not philosophical) cloth as The Residents would appear on this label devoted to all things that straddle the boundary between discomforting and inviting sound. With The Secular Arm, Rick Weaver does more than just pay homage to the godfathers of quirk, and mercifully so. If you seek temporary delirium in the form of sound, read on.
As a member of Form A Log and a solo artist alike, Rick Weaver has been creating music that sounds like the combined effects of sleep deprivation and excessive caffeine intake for over a decade. While Weaver's reputation for crafting bizarre narratives is well established, The Secular Arm is evenly split between songs with lyrics and wordless experiments that let the listener's imagination fill in the gaps. It's fidgety and rarely stays in the same place for more than a moment or two, yet it also just makes sense. Music this scattered and bizarre tends to be more about weirdness for its own sake than actually listenable, yet Weaver bridges the gap, whether by accident or by force (it's unclear which, although that's half the charm).
While the album starts off with a relatively direct electronic bent, by the time "Tin Tan (mono)" takes hold, it's clear that any musical element Weaver finds useful is fair game, whether it's moments that resemble musique concrete or conventional instruments like the guitar. From this point on, the ride gets considerably bumpier. The two different segments of the title track play out in a surprisingly dark fashion, but with a strong sense of humor and charm all the same. It's the balance that keeps The Secular Arm listenable at even its oddest moments, and it's this very sense of balance that seems nearly impossible. This is easily one of the strangest albums to reach these ears in quite some time, yet it's got as much sugary appeal as a pop record. This is unlikely to ever break out to mainstream success, but it's very easy to envision this charting on the end of year lists for the more eclectic and open-minded critics out there.
PR for this release was handled by the artist's label.