On the heels of Skyscraper’s relaunch, we’ll be reviewing a number of records from mid-to-late 2010 that we missed out on covering during our semi-hiatus. Sort of a “what we missed” series of reviews, emphasizing both some of the best releases of 2010 and some of the year’s most interesting but overlooked records. This is one of those.
The fair city of Chicago has been called the most American of the big cities, known for having the best mix of Midwestern values and Big City cosmopolitan sensibilities. Sadly, the worst parts of the two aesthetics collided in July of 2005 when a disturbed woman attempted suicide by rear-ending the car in front of her at a stop light. While she survived unharmed, her desperate act succeeded in taking the lives of three Chicago locals on their lunch break from local electronic giant Shure, including one Michael Dahlquist, a technical writer and drummer for local indie luminaries Silkworm.
Silkworm had been a band for over a decade at the time of Dahlquist’s passing, having risen from humble Montana roots to garner the dubious and short-sighted accolade of being the next Pavement. The band kept a level head during the indie rock boom of the mid-1990s, embracing their position as a critically acclaimed band while still maintaining their adult responsibilities (and a sense of humor: a late period Silkworm release was entitled Italian Platinum). The ensemble had long released records on their own schedule and toured when players could wrangle time away from their law and engineering jobs. Dahlquist’s death brought Silkworm to an end, though. Founding members Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett played an emotional drum-free noise set in memory of Dahlquist at the Touch and Go Records 25th Anniversary Fest last year, but each was adamant that any further music made together would not be under the Silkworm banner.
Testing new musical waters later in the same year Dahlquist died, Cohen and Midgett teamed with ex-Seam drummer Chris Manfrim and .22’s bassist Brian Orchard. While Silkworm was essentially a trio augmented with Matt Kadane of Bedhead in their final years, this new band was a bona-fide four-piece. Cohen and Midgett still displayed their unique vocal and lyrical sensibilities, but the new group was most notable for a change in orchestration. Midgett held the bass slot in Silkworm previously, but opted to play baritone guitar in the new band, adding a heretofore unexplored level of sonic depth to the proceedings. Dubbed Bottomless Pit, the quartet set about making the most of the added range, passing melodic and rhythmic lines among the trio of stringed instruments to create a sound that was familiar, yet still fresh to the ear, exhibiting all the sonority and depth of its namesake.
Bottomless Pit released their debut, Hammer Of the Gods, in 2007 and followed it up the next year with an EP entitled Congress. Like its predecessors, the second full-length from Bottomless Pit, Blood Under the Bridge, comes courtesy of New Jersey indie Comedy Minus One and its proprietor Jon Solomon, joining kindred spirits Karl Hendricks and Obits on a roster celebrating the best of the 1990s graduating class.
Continuing to refine their 16-string attack, Bottomless Pit maximizes the frequency range while maintaining maximum space. Sound ebbs and flows, lapping around the unconventional vocals and steady drumming to create a darkly warm world for listeners’ ears to play in. Even six years and two releases in, it is hard not to associate Blood Under the Bridge with Dahlquist’s passing. No song explicitly addresses his death, but there’s still a palpable dark-air of pain, and perhaps even catharsis.
Blood Under the Bridge is rife with familiar specters from past projects. The vocals will be unmistakable to those familiar with Silkworm, while Manfrim brings a driving economy from his time Seam. There’s even a Joe Jackson-esque instrumental, “Dixon,” but for the remaining tracks, it’s business as usual. Cohen weighs in with historically driven period pieces like “38 Souls” and “Rhinelander,” while Midgett takes a more personal tact with tracks like “Kiss Them.” Nothing here will sway those who failed to appreciate previous Silkworm or Bottomless Pit releases, but that doesn’t make naysayers any less wrong in their estimation. In the wake of time, tragedy and darkness, Bottomless Pit continue to blaze a singular path through a world of rehashed mediocrity with their darkly beautiful music.Visit: Bottomless Pit | Comedy Minus One
Purchase: Insound | eMusic