Cara & Mike Gangloff with the Great American Drone Orchestra - Knock on Life's Door

by Mark Steele Rating:6 Release Date:2016-08-05

The artwork on the new  two-part 15-track album Knock on Life's Door by experimentalist husband and wife team Mike and Cara Gangloff, seems less common these days. It gives you the impression by its psychedelic mandala and liquid script placed in each corner, that this will be a psych album, at least in spirit.

The ambition by this couple to blend both Avant-Garde music with the all-american Appalachian folk tradition, though some may see the attempted mix  as a bridge too far. The Great American Drone Orchestra collects together those reed, valve and string instruments, Accordions, Harmoniums, Hurdy Gurdy, Mouth Organ, Fiddles, plus a multitude of others which could be described as creative cacophony. Essentially, Mike and Cara extract  tunes from The Great American Songbook, a chronicle of American standard tunes, and attempt to twist their forms into new free-form experimental vocal and instrument arrangements.

Mike may be an old hand at the ropes of avant-garde, before seen with albums like Pelt, though equally Cara delivers confidently many nostalgic styles of songs found on this recording.
The opening number 'Sentimental Journey' is given a rough edge and a certain seriousness within the instrument tones applied. The niggling droning on 'Moon River' cutting and murmuring, almost seems like an elongated snippet of pre-prepared torture. The psychotic fixation of the percussive scraping and intense scratching found on 'All Of Me' has a perceived cheerfully composed Cara warbling like a canary, surrounded by a disgruntled scrapyard quartet.

The diametrically opposed pairings of the instruments against the vocals continues on 'Mood Indigo', a darkly disturbing shade less than the title suggests, and the sadness experience on 'Cry Me A River' scattered rhythmic impulses press against your comfort zones of musical orderly expectation. There are many interludes placed in the recordings that attempt to break up the off-centre performances here. The last number 'Sunny Side Of The Street' could not come any sooner, like taking that final bend of one of those badly maintained rickety and over sped rollercoasters, you know it incessantly screeches, doesn't make you feel right and it is sure well time to get off.

Knock On Life's Door shows a shady interpretation of these all-american standards. The work here of Mike and Clara seems clamour for attention and artistic appreciation. Well in part, that would seem justifiable, though on a whole there is two much of a die-hard incoherent mish-mash, making it a harder pill to swallow than their earlier works.

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