As clichés go, Western musicians discovering and experimenting with Eastern music and philosophy is right up there. There’s even a joke in Spinal Tap about it. Anywhere, the debut album from the LA group of the same name is just that – a group of musicians taking cues from the East. Anyone with even a little knowledge of The Mars Volta won’t be surprised to find that Cedric Bixler-Zavala is involved in this record. You may be surprised to find that rather than wailing like a banshee that’s stubbed its toe, he spends most of time behind a drum set, providing a solid backbone for the rest of the group and pretty much acting as the secret to Anywhere’s success.
The album is the work of four musicians – the aforementioned Bixler-Zavala, Christian Eric Beaulieu of Triclops!, Rachel Fannan of Sleepy Sun, and Mike Watt, who should need no introduction. It’s rooted in Beaulieu’s interest in Eastern music – his acoustic guitar, tuned in such a way as to echo the scales used in raga, forms the basis to all of the songs. He strums away at every available opportunity; open strings ringing out like a demented sitar. Thankfully, rather than being an all out hippy jam and sounding like the kind of thing you’d find in your dad’s record collection, Anywhere is very much informed by the group’s background in punk rock. The tempo and structure of the songs are as much in line with the fury of a Drive Like Jehu song as it is musically akin to something by Vashti Bunyan. Particular attention should be paid to the rhythm section of Watt and Bixler-Zavala. Watt’s bass darts and weaves around the other instruments, driving the songs forward when required or pulling back when it gets a bit introspective. Bixler-Zavala pummels his drums into submission, sounding as far removed from raga as it’s possible to. Anywhere could quite easily be described as Eastern punk, but don’t let that put you off.
If it’s a cliché for musicians to start exploring Eastern music, then it’s definitely a cliché for a review to describe a record as cinematic. That said, Anywhere could easily form the soundtrack to a spaghetti western. Opening on a wide shot of a desert, ‘Rosa Rugosa’ fades in with ethereal vocals and lots of ambient noises before suddenly breaking off into a furious spidery guitar riff, echoing the action on screen. More guitars come in, to accompany more action. There are close ups of different sets of eyes and more wide shots of the desert. The main character is tested in someway and loses. The beginning of the second act is ushered in with ‘Dead Golden West’, a slow number with lots of chanting of mantras; long shots of someone riding a horse, alone. Watt takes a bass solo. ‘Anywhere’, the most straightforward song on the album (it has a chorus), featuring a soulful Bixler-Zalavas crooning ”I’m falling/won’t somebody catch me/I’m not anywhere”. On screen there’s some soul searching, all that kind of stuff that happens before the final showdown. The melodica on ‘Infared Moses’ builds the tension; suddenly it breaks for a drum solo. It builds again, reaching a triumphant climax as everyone on screen gets shot. Credits roll. Fade to black.
6David Pott-Negrine's Score