Giant Sand Returns! New Songs! Old Vids!

 

New album on Yep
Roc, new band lineup, new American tour… so what else is new, Howe?

 

By Fred Mills

 

It’s been four years since an official Giant Sand album,
and nearly as long since head Sand-man Howe Gelb — who in the interim issued a
slew of solo projects — took his freewheeling band on the road for a full
American tour. All that changes in September, however: Sep. 2 marks the arrival
of new Sand platter proVISIONS,
issued by indie tastemaker Yep Roc, and then a couple of weeks later the
quartet will embark on a tour that initially finds them opening for Neko Case
then, in October, breaking off for a West Coast trek as headliners. After that
Gelb will head to New Zealand
and Australia
for a vacation and perform a series of solo shows.

 

“Giant Sand is a mood,” deadpanned Howe Gelb, no
stranger to understatement, in a recent press release from Yep Roc. The label
goes on to note that Gelb,  “the creative
force behind the extended family that has comprised Giant Sand over the years,
speaks of  ‘yippity and happenstance’
that arise to inspire the soundscape that is Giant Sand. Gelb has steadily
amassed a prolific catalog of Giant Sand and solo material that spans the
wealth of southwestern roots and lo-fi. Thick with musings scattered by desert
winds, and soaked with eroding guitars and dusty piano, proVISIONS 
sonically explores love and loss in the socio-political climate of the modern
world.” The bulk of the record was cut last summer during Gelb’s annual family
sojourn to Europe and it was produced by Gelb
and Kent Olsen, who previously worked with him on his Arizona Amp and
Alternator project.

 

You can check out some new and past GS/Gelb sound samples
at the group’s official MySpace Page, or at the Yep Roc artist’s page for the
band. In particular, “Increment Of Love” has the kind of spooky,
burying-bodies-in-the-desert vibe that has always marked Gelb’s most memorable
tunes, while “Without a Word,” featuring Neko on haunting background vocals,
ploughs into a classic Sand-worthy garage-skronk groove. And after you’re done
with the new tracks, scroll to the bottom of this page for some of BLURT’s fave
clips from the man and the band.

With a family tree that would flummox even the mighty family tree majordomo
Pete Frame, Giant Sand currently features Gelb (guitars, keys, vox,
brakemanship) plus  Danish musicians
Thoger T. Lund (bass), Peter Dombernowsky (drums) and Anders Pedersen (slide
guitar). For the album the likes of Case, M. Ward, Isobel Campbell, Henriette
Sennenvaldt, Lucie Idlout and Lonna Kelley also pitched in, but as always, it’s
Gelb’s singular, sunbaked vision — as filtered, increasingly, through a
distinctive European sieve — that drives the bus.

 

 

“Drives,” indeed: while the press release coincidentally
characterizes the new album as “a creeping cruise down a dark desert highway,”
speaking personally, as a fan of the band since that first Giant Sandworms
seven-inch all those decades ago (not to mention as an erstwhile Tucson
resident who was privy to some monstrously fine Giant Sand and GS-related
performances during my ten-year tenure in the Old Pueblo), I can attest to the
viscerality and velocity that a trip with Giant Sand provides.

 

One interesting side tidbit about the record: promotional copies were sent out to the press in
July, but since then Gelb came across a “lost” track, “Belly Full Of Fire,”
that he wanted to include. Apparently it was a song he’d cut some time ago
while on tour with PJ Harvey in Europe, but then it got “stashed away” and subsequently
forgotten. Much later, while poking around in his archive, Gelb found the song.
“Somehow it made sense there at the very last minute to get this new found treasure
of a song in the record,” Gelb told Yep Roc. “It made the whole record click.
It woke up the songs that came after it beautifully.” The finished,
commercially available copies of the album, then, will include “Belly,” which
subs for the nine-minute “The New Romance Of Falling,” originally on the promos. The latter, a drop-dead awesome track incidentally, will be made available ass a
digital-only bonus track with purchase of proVISIONS (and yes, sharp-eyed Giant Sand fans: the tune is indeed descended from an earlier GS track: “Romance Of Falling,” from 1992’s Ramp, although needless to say it’s been pretty radically overhauled for the new millennium). Meanwhile, ahem, it would appear some of us done got ourselves a nice
collectible in our mitts! [Stop gloating,
you geek. – Weekend Copy Editor
]

 

In the current, July/August digital magazine of BLURT, you
can read our interview conducted by Lavinia Jones Wright with Gelb about his
band and the new album. Of his recording and touring beast that just won’t die,
Gelb observes, “Every record always seems like the very last record. It is,
literally, always the last record. You can assume you’re going to do another
one if a bus doesn’t run you over today, but it really is all you know. It’s
one of the good things about getting older, that you realize that. When you’re
on a tour you think, ‘This is my last show,’ or ‘This is the last time I’ll
ever play this song…’ because you really enjoy it when it’s the last time.”

 

 

Meanwhile, keep an eye peeled for our forthcoming coverage
of proVISIONS. “In today’s cookie
cutter universe – and that includes the hordes of indie recycling bands –
there’s little room for true eccentrics like Gelb, the ‘squeaky hinge out here
on the fringe’ as he sings here,” writes John Schacht, in his review of the
album. “[But]  proVISIONS rivals anything in the vast Gelb/Giant Sand catalog…
these are the most polished and accessible off-the-cuff improvisations Gelb’s
ever done.”

 

 

Again, speaking personally, I learned firsthand that in the
Gelb universe, “improvisation” isn’t merely a noun — it’s an action verb. A
goddam fine state of mind, too.

 

 

Giant Sand Tour
Dates:

 

 

(opening for Neko
Case)

 

 

Sep 15 2008    8:00P

            Sokol
Underground    Omaha, NE

Sep 16 2008    8:00P

            Hoyt
Sherman Auditorium     Des
Moines, IA, Iowa

Sep 17 2008    8:00P

            Mitchell
Auditorium   Duluth,
Minnesota

Sep 18 2008    8:00P

            First Avenue   Minneapolis, MN

Sep 19 2008    8:00P

            Orpheum
Theatre        Madison, WI

Sep 20 2008    8:00P

            Hideout
Block Party   Chicago, IL

Sep 21 2008    8:00P

            Blender
Theater – Gramercy   New York City

Sep 23 2008    8:00P

            Beachland
Ballroom   Cleveland, OH

Sep 24 2008    8:00P

            The Pageant
   St.
Louis, MO

Sep 25 2008    8:00P

            The Lyric         Oxford,
MS

Sep 26 2008    8:00P

            Diamond
Ballroom     Oklahoma City, OK

Sep 27 2008    8:00P

            Granada
Theater         Dallas, TX

 

(headlining)

 

 

Oct 3 2008      8:00P

            Modified
Arts             Phoenix, AZ

Oct 4 2008      8:00P

            Club
Congress             Tucson, AZ

Oct 8 2008      8:00P

            The Echo         Los
Angeles, CA

Oct 9 2008      8:00P

            Cafe Du
Nord             San Francisco, CA

Oct 11 2008    8:00P

            The Doug
Fir Lounge             Portland, OR

Oct 12 2008    8:00P

            The Triple
Door           Seattle, WA

 

 

(Howe Gelb solo)

 

 

Oct 23 2008    8:00P

            Sammies          Dunedin,
NZ

Oct 24 2008    8:00P

            San Francisco Bathhouse        Wellington, NZ

Oct 25 2008    8:00P

            4.20     Auckland,
NZ

Oct 28 2008    8:00P

            The
Troubadour          Fortitude Valley,
QLD

Oct 30 2008    8:00P

            Clarendon
Guest House          Katoomba, NSW

Oct 31 2008    8:00P

            The Factory
Theatre    Enmore, NSW

Nov 1 2008     8:00P

            Northcote
Social Club            Northcote, VIC

Nov 2 2008     8:00P

            Northcote
Social Club            Northcote, VIC

Nov 3 2008     8:00P

            The Jade
Monkey        Adelaide, SA

 

 

 

Giant Sand on
YouTube:
Take a Tucson
travelogue with Gelb via the GS track “Shiver.” Next, go all the way back to
the beginning, circa 1983, for Giant Sandworms doing “Body Of Water” (dig those
Saguaro alien invaders). And then, finally, glom onto the best version of X’s
“Johnny Hit and Run Pauline” that X never cut. Now THAT is entertainment…

 

 

 

 

 

 



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