- Wren Kitz, Early Worm
(Sophomore Lounge/Feeding Tube Records, LP, digital)
Wren Kitz's musical evolution during the past several years has been a stimulating and fascinating ride. He's a truly experimental artist, and not just because the music he makes is often unconventional. The descriptor applies wholly to his modus operandi, especially as a live musician.
Kitz frequently experiments with how he presents his work to audiences. Whether equipped with a reel-to-reel tape recorder and sound-manipulating wrench, a simple acoustic guitar, or a full rock band, Kitz constantly pushes his own boundaries.
Case in point: his new album, Early Worm. It's the singer-songwriter's true rock album, though it does occasionally meander into an abstract abyss. It encapsulates the live show he perfected pre-pandemic.
Kitz eases off of the soundscape-y folk mud puddles on his 2017 album, Dancing on Soda Lake, and the even muddier abstractions of his 2018 LP, Lovebird. But both records planted conceptual seeds that are now ready for harvest. The new album applies Soda Lake's impressionism and Lovebird's inhibition and is clearly influenced by the rugged inclinations of local rock auteur Rob Voland. Kitz plays in Voland's band, and vice versa. Voland's manic drumming on Early Worm ties everything together.
Though Kitz's speaking voice isn't particularly high, his singing voice tends to be throughout Early Worm. Altered by filters and effects, his vocals sound as if delivered through a corrugated tube, only reaching the listener's ear after a vibratile journey.
Recalling New York City alt-rocker Steve Gunn's work, the tracks on Early Worm shoot straight ahead rather than taking more conventional, circuitous routes that loop back to choruses. Kitz's choruses are radical bursts of rock fury that sometimes erupt as interstitial pieces inserted between his proper songs. The gnarled feedback bramble of "Sophie" juts in between the psychedelic "Shrouds," itself subsequent to glistening drone opener "Early Worm, Part 1."
"Early Worm, Part 2," an eerie, abstract tramp that kicks off the vinyl version's B side, precedes standout cut "Georgie." Kitz's vocals drip out slowly over an increasingly intense, atmospheric arrangement. His guitar cries out with emotive licks. The song eventually reaches a denouement, leaving only his voice eking out syllables over what sounds like a windy valley. "It could get worse / Before it gets better," he repeats.
Early Worm makes perfect sense in terms of Kitz's artistic evolution. It's not so much an excursion as it is a culmination — and a damn fine one at that.
Early Worm will be available at sophomorelounge.bandcamp.com on Friday, December 11.