the Notes and Scratches

Em P Me

thursday, january 05th, 2006 at 11:00 am

Seriously, the hours flew by
January 5th, 2006 by Mike

Located in Chicago, Tense Forms is a collection of like-minded musicians, artists, conceptualists and friends that have banded together not in an attempt to make each other famous through virtue of size, but rather to feed off each other’s creative energy, elevating their collective output to unimaginable levels. They are the most organized, on the ball, doing-it-for-all-the-right-reasons group of people I’ve ever been in contact with. The newest project of theirs to cross my desk is the most recent disc from the Notes and Scratches, entitled Uh-Oh.

Listening to an album for the first time at work is always a dangerous proposition. Distractions come, flutter in your face while the phone rings and that pain in your back from uncomfortable office furniture reminds you that the neon-esque glow of the the flourescent lighting is exacerbating your caffeine-withdrawal headache. The next thing you know, you’re on the 10th of 11 songs and remember three words. Such was the scenario I envisioned when I fired up my work iTunes library to sit down for the first time with the new Notes and Scratches album. Moments into “The Hours” and that scenario was deemed impossible by the powers that be. Putting me off-guard with what sounds like a bowed saw, the intro fluttered into the distance behind a crushing and perhaps deadly wall of pounding percussion, squeeze box, slide guitar, piano, electric guitar, and bass. The musical backdrop seems better suited for a Tennessee recording studio than a musty club in the corner of Chicago, but offers the perfect canvas for Joshua Dumas’ patented* 10-cigarette croon. Rough and raspy, it retains an elegance found in only the rarest of occasions, as illustrated perfecty amongst the opening lines of “Seriously” (a duet with the wonderfully voiced Anika Balaconis). The album drives through track after track, letting up only a couple times (though perfectly placed to fight back any fatigue that may fall upon untrained ears) with the introspective tale found in “the Clockmaker’s Daughter” and the brass-laden instrumental “in the Evening.”

Moving beyond that of bands such as The Gunshy and Lucero (who the Notes and Scratches will no doubt draw comparisons to), the strongest point of the album is the collaborative vibe emanating from every moment. A musical metaphor to what brought them together in the first place, Uh-Oh is swimming in friendship, collaboration, creativity and the arts. The CD comes packaged in a beautiful gatefold chipboard package, hand screened with illustrations that create their own entry points from which listeners can enter the album from.

Not only has the band created what easily would have been on my Top 10 List of 2005 had I actually brought it home from the office and spent more time with it, but they have also adapted to the ever changing processes behind marketing and selling their music, offering high-quality DRM-free digital downloads from the Tense Forms website alongside the traditional CD with it’s beyond traditional packaging. When will the larger labels of the world learn?

The album retained its grasp on my attention as it made its way promisingly through track after track, drowning out the dull Monday office-scape and opening itself invitingly to me.

  • = If not, it should be.
Mike Gibson