by Jon Rooney ::
Portland’s Mike Coykendall‘s newest full length, Half Past, Present Pending, is a slice of seriously fuzzy, spaced-out folk music. Coykendall is a musical veteran’s veteran, having led a band called Klyde Konner in the Midwest back in the late ’80s before playing in the Old Joe Clarks, a roots duo with his wife, in San Francisco in the ’90s and finally settling in Portland, where he’s carved a niche for himself as a sideman, producer and engineer with the likes of M Ward, Blitzen Trapper, She & Him and Tin Hat Trio. Coykendall’s own work is comfortably homey and slightly warped, rooted in traditional American music but playfully subjected to all sorts of sound experiments.
Half Past, Present Pending starts off with a slow burn, as ”All That I Wanted” sloshes back and forth in a soupy haze of searching electric guitars and processed vocals. “Spacebaker Blues” sounds like ZZ Top on quaaludes, all buzzsaw guitars and a kickdrum that somehow seems to both stomp and slowly drift. Coykendall’s cover of Roger Miller’s “In the Summertime” is fascinating – it’s a brisk honkey tonk romp punctuated by growling, metallic guitar that evokes Lou Reed’s dry, menacing tone circa The Blue Mask or even (gulp) Lulu.
“Killing Time” is the most directly pretty song on Half Past, Present Pending, gently strummed and warmly sung like a lullaby, colored only slightly by smatterings of fuzz and oscillating noise that poke through toward the end. Likewise, “Hard Landing” is a straight-forward, sad bastard bar ballad that’s moving and satisfying. Sandwiched between “Killing Time” and “Hard Landing,” “Just South of Levitation” is a sparse, electric desert dirge that’s more interlude than proper song. The final handful of tracks, including a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Paranoid Eyes,” vacillate nicely between delicate songcraft and noisy explorations.
Underneath the delays, wah pedal and buzzsaw guitar (I stand by my Lulu reference and will fight you if I have to), Half Past, Present Pending is packed full of songs that could stand on their own two feet without adornment if needed. The high points of the record evoke some heady folks – Vic Chesnutt, Lucinda Williams, Beachwood Sparks, Will Oldham, even Wilco at their least jammy. Yet Half Past, Present Pending showcases Coykendall’s own distinctive voice as a musical lifer steeped in all sorts of Americana but still having fun twirling knobs, banging on things and slathering on thick layers of fuzz.
Wednesday, July 22, Vermillion Art Gallery & Bar
1508 11th Ave E, Seattle, WA
Mike Coykendall with Virgin of the Birds and Carlos Forster
Doors 8pm | FREE | 21+
Thursday, July 23, Kelly’s Olympian
426 SW Washington, Portland, OR
Mike Coykendall with Annalisa Tornfelt, Virgin of the Birds and Carlos Forster
Doors 8pm | $10 | 21+
Top Song: Mike Coykendall – In The Summertime (Roger Miller)
Bottom Song: Mike Coykendall – Hard Landing