Seems like Howe Gelbhas been lurking in the Arizona desert forever, recording eccentric “erosion rock” albums at a startling pace in various musical configurations. As head of the collective Giant Sand and under his own name, he’s collaborated with musicians including the founders of Calexico, M. Ward, Grandaddy and many more on somewhere between 40 and 50 albums — even he’s not sure. One thing is certain: Gelb’s latest studio recording is “The Coincidentalist,” and it premieres today on Speakeasy.
It’s an unhurried collection of 11 songs, by turns arid and atmospheric, with offhand touches of rock, folk and torchy jazz, with Gelb singing in a crooning murmur over backing from Ward on guitar, Giant Sand bassist Thøger Tetens Lundand and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, with contributions from Andrew Bird, Americana singer-songwriter Bonnie “Prince” Billy and steel guitarist Jon Rauhouse, who plays with Neko Case (another singer who has worked with Gelb). There’s also a trio of Spanish flamenco guitarists.
Gelb calls it “the most melodic of any my albums,” though he told Speakeasy that he’s not entirely sure why.
“Most of the songs slip out of me in fragments when I’m alone in a hotel room on the road and I capture them like a fire fly. Stick em in the jar. Or little recording device. And then sometime later I spill em out to see what’s been collected,” he said. “In that process I’ve usually sputtered some incoherent lyrics on them to best illuminate the immediate idea of the song. Most of those lyrical fragments have no basis in what we consider reality. Only upon listening way later does the ear begin to make patterns of the words the way our eyes make patterns of random objects we see like stars or clouds.”
The clouds part, or the stars come out — or both — on Nov. 5, when New West Records releases “The Coincidentalist” in stores and online. What do you think of the album? Leave your thoughts in the comments.