CHRIS WEISMAN "Fresh Sip" C62 (Autumn Records)

"Don't you people like anything simple"?

I was wondering when I'd get a tape that really made me want to write something...that time has come! Chris Weisman is a songwriter and bedroom multi-tracker from Brattleboro, VT. His brother Kurt was in the much celebrated band Feathers and he is the bass player in the much hyped (and really rather good) band Happy Birthday along with Ruth Garbus and Kyle Thomas (both of Feathers). Musically and lyrically he fits in comfortably with what I would call the artists of "Brattleboro Renaissance": a loosely connected group of bands and songwriters creating music that in my mind is the polar opposite of Feather's spacy sound, and definitely far removed from the brutal death trip (wink wink) of Noise Central: the Pioneer Valley of Western, MA, just 45 minutes southern. Theirs is a music that manages to truck in both surrealism and substantiality, all the while grooving to some impeccably crafted, and often complex, song structures. Besides the aforementioned acts, I would also include the Happy Jawbone Family Band and the music of Zach Phillips and Sarah Smith (Easy St./Sord/Horse Boys) in this category.

"Fresh Sip" is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of recent memory. Coming off of his "Tape Walk" CD from last year (an album that collected a half decade's worth of songs) this cassette is just as diverse, yet it feels all of one piece and flows so beautifully from one song to the next. Utilizing a sonic pallette of guitars, simple percusion, and occasional primitive keyboard work beneath Chris's multi-tracked falsetto vocals the songs on "Fresh Sip"are his most fully realized to date. At first listen, I felt this music was begging to be the soundtrack to many a tasteful dorm-dweller's sleepy Sunday (in a good way!), but upon further examination there is a level of rigorousness to this music that defies easy classification and might take some people out of their comfort zones. {In fact, I'm listening to this right now on the stereo of my local coffee shop and I can tell it's seriously irking the guy at the table next to me. So much so in fact that he just slammed down his drink and demanded that the lovely barista turn it off at once! True story.}

"You can't really call an animal mean when she has to fight forces unseen in the popular dream".

What makes music like this succeed or fail, ultimately, is the quality of the voice, and Weisman uses a number of inventive phasing effects, self-harmonies and some tasteful delay to flesh out his already wonderful melodies. These effects are never intrusive and really add peaks and valleys to the album, where acoustic song follows electric barn burner, follows a capella diddy. The lyrics include some humorous cultural and musical references ("I get that, good for me" type stuff), but they also bare their composer's soul from time to time, as well as including some snaky twists that defy standard rhyming practice.

I've seen Chris perform twice, once by himself and once with a small group. I would say that if he can teach a band this music and perform it live then he would have something that could potentially be ever better than this work. Until then, we will have to be content with his frequent missives from the deepest parts of sound and emotion. --- buy "Fresh Sip" and "Tape Walk" --- download many of Chris's songs