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Pullman: Viewfinder

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You're going to have to listen here. Pullman doesn't yank you in with a blast or a hook; instead, this Chicago quintet eases along through resonant guitar textures with a relaxed feel. On Viewfinder, their second Thrill Jockey release, the group reconfigures its personnel and expands its recording techniques to include studio multitracking. Pullman remains a guitar group to the core: at any time, three or four guitars may resonate together. The overall sound remains calm, tender, and understated—hovering in the low-to-middle range of intensity. Occasional flashes of light, as in the grand coming-together on the opener, "Same Grain With New Wood," stand out with special contrast.

The musical ideas midwifed in this setting come to maturity through a process of careful exposition and development; textures often play just as important a role as melody. The obvious genres for comparison include American folk music, minimalism, and post-rock. While Viewfinder mostly finds its harmonies in open territory—outside the extra dissonant elements that fuel much of jazz—it retains a fresh improvisatory feeling throughout. Gone are the idioimatic forms of country, folk, and blues. And likewise, Pullman leaves rock dynamism by the roadside. What's left is a pulsing, ebb-and- flow tide of reverberant sound and texture. One might complain that the polished sound of the newly revamped Pullman lacks the home-made spontaneity of its predecessor, Turnstyles, but studio wizardry here exists to serve two simple roles: broaden the sonic palette and enrich the textures. Nothing criminal about that, in my opinion.

Listening to Viewfinder is like taking a gentle stroll through the countryside... regular lingering whiffs of wildflowers and grass up to your knees. You wouldn't want to race through this music—it's the gradual unfolding of perambulant sonic landscapes that makes the recording work so well. Take your time, let it seep into your system, and you'll be that much richer for the experience.


Track Listing: Same Grain With New Wood; Delta One; Or, Otherwise; Forty Fingers; FLT; Hatah; Isla Mujeres; Chicken Smoked Blanket; Bookends; Felucca; Quantum Mechanic; Narrow Canyon; Street Light; Wire And One Good Shoe; Brewster Road.

Personnel: Chris Brokaw: nylon string guitar, electric guitar, slide guitar, electric bass guitar, whistling; Ken Brown: acoustic and electric guitars, E-bow; Curtis Harvey: acoustic and electric guitars, electric bass guitar, bazouki, fender bass VI, accordion, mountain dulcimer; Doug McCombs: acoustic and electric bass guitars, double bass, nylon string guitar, electric guitar, clavioline, dobro, lap steel; Tim Barnes: drum kit, percussion, sea shanty.

Title: Viewfinder | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Thrill Jockey

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