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Value Void - Sentimental

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-10-26
Value Void - Sentimental
Value Void - Sentimental

This record should be called (to almost quote Stevie Wonder) Songs in the Minor Key of Life.

This is a DIY folky punk trio of Paz Maddio (guitar, vocals), Marta Zabala (drums), and Luke Tristram (bass). They play lo-fi strummed songs that, after repeated plays, seep into interesting parts of the brain, where, quite frankly, a lot of other music just isn’t brave enough to go. I suppose this is proto-punk in a post-punk era. The Raincoats come to mind, in particular, their song “Adventures Close to Home.” Of course, there are no lead guitar lines, no violin, Lora Logic doesn’t honk a sax, and VV doesn’t cover The Kinks’ “Lola.” But there’s a common strand of people making weird and interesting music with minimal production and an odd and compelling humanity about the whole thing.

This is similar to the stuff that bubbled through the 70’s froth of heavy-duty prog epics that had grown into, well, even heavier duty prog epics (which I still love), and made music human once again. For example, (the great) Kevin Coyne made oddly acoustic records like Case History and Bursting Bubbles. Now, Paz Maddio and Value Void certainly don’t sound like Kevin Coyne, but both share a madly strummed guitar sound and the ability to write very uncommercial songs that, for some weird reason, beg the press of the repeat button.  

I just had to say that because I love the music of Kevin Coyne, and I really like this record, too.

Mr. Radue (aka Jazz Guy) always says, “There is good free jazz. And there is bad free jazz.” The same thing is true for lo-fi strummed folky punk songs. But not to fear, these songs are great. Sure, the antenna has to be twisted a bit. Case in point: “La Trampa” almost deflates itself with its understated vocal, strummed guitar, cymbals galore, and big bass sound. Yet, after multiple plays, the tune reveals itself as serious, oddly melodic, and perhaps, profound, music. “Babeland” is fresh spring water with its buoyant melody that juxtaposes the somber instrumental backing. It’s a really nice song.

Then things get weird in a lovely sort of way. “Back in the Day” repeats a dissonant plucked guitar melody, while the vocals plead with the innocence of a sarcastic angel. Once again, the juxtaposition of the mundane and sublime fuse into the urge to press that repeat button.

“Bariloche” is almost deep forest acid folk.

And I had to say that because I love acid folk, and I really like this record, too.

Oh, and speaking of Paz’s voice, their bio states it is a “lilting, ultra-chromatic voice—a ceramic-sharp diagonal transatlantic on a pure open tone, with subtle waves of vibrato at its top end.” Now, even though I once earned a solid B grade in a college music major course1, I have no idea what all of that means. I just love her voice. It warms the chestnut melodies and welcomes the listeners.

“Cupid’s Bow” strums more folky punk stuff. It’s odd: Luke Tristram’s bass and Marta Zabala’s percussion fill the vacant lead guitar, for want of a better word, void. This music appears so simple, but the synchrony of the triad is deep down telepathic stuff.

And life should be so simple as “Mind.” A sad Syd Barrett guitar frames a beautiful melody, and feedback punctuates the end of the song. This is quietly dense music.

“The Deluge” is another tensely picked tune that elevates this record well about the usual pop menu. And, yes, as stated, this music has a lot in common with some of my favorite acid folk records like Stone Angel, Cob, or Midwinter.  

“Teen for Him” is the ultimate song in the minor key of life. The tune roams the buskers’ streets with a melody worthy of attention without the need to beg for any spare change.  

Just an idea:  I would love to spend time examining Marta’s lyrics for these songs. And I say that because all of the songs roused interest, but “Dead Ladies Lament” with its languid chords, patient choir-like vocals, sublime aura, lyrics that cry “She was already dead when she came in,” and the delivery of those words, makes for an epic ending. This is spooky stuff.

So, this is an arty record. Sure, it’s a guitar strummed album. It’s a thirty-one-minute record. It’s a heavenly voiced record. It’s a simple record. It’s an antenna twisting record. It’s a very human record that sings the minor key chords of stealth pop production; and, ultimately, it’s an album that’s an odd joy to hear.

 

1Full disclosure time: Now, about that solid B grade in a music major college class: I was just a college freshman who loved rock music, took the college music class, but could only (sort of) remember how to tune my acoustic guitar. The terms harmonic triad, semitone, and a jazzy blue note meant nothing to me. And, quite frankly, I couldn’t discern a second from a seventh interval. I just liked records and thought music had pretty much reached its quintessential moment with Foghat’s “Slowride” or any album by Uriah Heep. Let’s just say all my fellow students in the class could do all of the above and then play four or five musical instruments. The kindly college professor, speaking as “an old sax player,” took me aside and expressed a sincere uncertainty for my future as a music major. I agreed.  He then offered that solid B as a grade point parachute if I, right then and there, promised to never take another music major course. Talk about “The Road Not Taken”! Let’s simply say (again) that I am extremely proud of that B grade; I really like this record: and, even after all these years, I’m still (sort of) able, even as I write this review, to tune my very own acoustic guitar.

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