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Published: 2009/11/16
by Brian Robbins

On Fillmore
Extended Vacation

Dead Oceans

On Fillmore’s Glenn Kotche and Darin Gray claim that they’re not trying to mess with the heads of listeners with their music, but – hoo boy – there are times when the going truly gets weird on their latest release, Extended Vacation (in the nicest of ways, of course). Recorded over a three-year period whenever Kotche wasn’t needed behind the drums for his day job with Wilco and when Gray wasn’t playing bass with a multitude of various bands and projects, Extended Vacation is the sound of two friends having fun and taking some sonic chances. Although Kotche does play percussion on the album, he also spends a goodly portion of his time on the vibraphone; Gray, in the meantime, handles bass and piano chores – and both of them contribute to the album’s layers of sounds.

Gray and Kotche open up their secret society of two for Extended Vacation, bringing in Brazilian master percussionist Dede Sampaio to play … uhh … bird calls, of course. (Never mind – it’ll become clearer when you hear the music.) Sampaio’s contribution is one of the few identified sound sources on the album, Gray and Kotche preferring to let the listener draw his own conclusions and experience her own private mental videos while absorbing the music. (It might be the snore of your half-drunk Uncle Ned collapsed in the Lazy Boy after Thanksgiving dinner on “Daydreaming So Early” or it might be the sound a 60-foot tall atomic swamp lizard makes just before it eats the village … it’s your call.)

There are also times when the mood of the tune seems to be a no-brainer. The title track, for instance, features late-night-in-the-jazz-club standup bass from Gray for the first minute or so – as far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly what it is. (At least until the giant sand crabs come scuttling sideways through the scene … then all bets are off.)

Thankfully, the duo brings us home safely at the end with the album-closing “Clearing Out” touching down on a big ol’ major chord that makes everything okay – and leaves you willing to take the On Fillmore ride again.

It’s an album that’ll make you think, make you wonder, might make you cringe – but will also make you smile. You can trust On Fillmore – no matter how weird the going gets, they’re pros. They’ve never lost anyone to the 60-foot tall atomic swamp lizard yet.

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