The Child Readers – Music Heard Far Off

The Child Readers
Music Heard Far Off

Believe it or not there was a time when “outsider music” was just that, occasionally tuneless, mostly bizarre, and entirely enchanting music that not even the most jaded indie hipster would get near. But with such sounds earning praise from the likes of WFMU’s Irwin Chusid and Matt Groening and influence from old school legend Frank Zappa up to Devendra Banhart, the lines between “outsider music” and the more common place are becoming blurred. Due to the popularity of Banhart, Wooden Wand, Joanna Newsom more upstarts in the “freak folk” or “new weird America” genre are rising to the surface. And like any new movement that takes flight there are those who while meaning well, fail to make an impression.

Music Heard Far Off certainly fits the bill with its difficult to read liner notes and shadowy artwork, not to mention the oh-so-sad song titles such as “Death of a Cloud.” However they don’t do much more than create background music for art house films, similar in scope to Califone’s Declaration series. While in the context of a film the songs, or more accurately sounds, would work well, but as a cohesive listening experience a lot is left to be desired. By employing the kitchen sink method of instrumentation, using toy pianos and music boxes to lo-fi recording techniques the sound alternates between a thrift store circus and occasional guitar drones. It’s Jandek without the mystery and Califone without the tunes. Warbling abstract words in a voice like The Frogs’ Jimmy Flemion creates an unsettling experience as well.

There are moments of sheer beauty however, such as “The Plague Angel’s” Jackie-O Motherfucker passages and the almost eighties-esque synth tinges of “Fortune.” but for every genuine moment of interest there is a long stretch of tedium and it unfortunately directly follows the songs of intrigue. Though the album clocks in at just over 45 minutes the sixteen songs make for a long and restless listen.

Soft Abuse, the label behindMusic Heard Far Off, has overseen releases from Destroyer, Wooden Wand, and Frog Eyes, and they make for an obvious choice for The Child Readers. It’s a shame then the band doesn’t have anything for the listener to latch on to like the rest of the label’s roster.