Not only is Nothing As The Ideal the newest release from All Them Witches, it also stands well apart from their earlier work.
The Nashville trio of Ben McLeod on guitar, Robby Staebler on drums, and Charles Michael Parks, Jr. on bass (and vocals) have produced an impressive amount of music in the less-than-ten years they’ve been together – six studio releases and now this new one. Every album they have released has different feel to it and Nothing As The Ideal is the most different, if that is a possible thing. Each subsequent release is recognizable as an All Them Witches album but they are all clearly their own thing, too. That approach might not be great for branding, but it produces amazing results for the music.
“Saturnine & Iron Jaw” begins the album with a tolling bell and a scratchy metallic weirdness growing out of the void and creeping slowly up to you. Ninety seconds in, an echoing guitar starts a soft minute-long climb into an urgent appeal, “Nothing, that’s the ideal.” The next song is “Enemy of My Enemy” and it starts out in a rapid patter infused with ethereal peakiness. And then there is “Ethereal,” quiet and wispy and beautiful strumming with a blunt homage to The Alan Parsons Project’s Turn of a Friendly Card. “See You Next Fall” closes out side one with nearly ten minutes of musical story. There is a lot going on in this very long song, with looped non sequitur voices at the front and distorted guitars traveling along with pulsing rhythm and percussion. None of this seems or sounds discordant or even odd. It all fits together as a whole – “I’m not grinding my teeth / I’m not lying awake.”
Side two leads off with the roots sounding “The Children of Coyote Woman.” Second is “41” which felt to me like an extended plea, while “Lights Out” is a traveling fist fight. “Rats In Ruin” is the closer, another long song passing nine minutes. It has avant-garde passages and a long, sorrowful guitar solo that carries sadness like I have not heard since the refrain in Zappa’s “Watermelon In Easter Hay.” It was an ending I didn’t see coming but just the right one for this album.
Nothing As The Ideal is out now from New West Records. You can hit the links below to get yours in whatever form you like best. Once you get started with All Them Witches, it is hard to stop. Recommended.
Band photo by Robby Staebler.