Chance Wiesner - Takin' a Chance on Love TDRCO-038
CD + Digital Download (Lossless + MP3)
Takin' a Chance on Love
Release Date: May 4, 2013
2. Wandering One
3. Plastic Flower Factory
4. Critter Sister
5. Moon Rover
6. Elegance Elephants
7. Dressed as a Penguin
8. Messed it Up With My Little Honey
9. A Stretch
10. Mosquito Thirsty
11. How’s The Dog
Brimming with undercurrents of freak-folk strummables, washed out country twang, ocean current rainbow sing alongs, and a lighthearted, comedic earnestness, Chance Wiesner’s new solo effort Takin’ a Chance on Love is eleven tracks of out there, lo-fi goodness. Recorded over a three week period in Jan. 2013, Takin’ a Chance on Love emanates from Portland’s stellar Ten Dollar Recording Company, a veritable cottage industry of talented tune-benders chock full of all the rain-dappled, left-of-center goodness that makes the western slopes of the Cascades such a strange and idiosyncratic locale for all things music. An all around great listen, Chance Wiesner’s inaugural solo full-length Takin’ a Chance on Love is another feather in the cap of Portland’s mighty TDRCO, and is one head trip that should soon be demanding closer inspection by critics and record buffs alike.
Takin’ a Chance on Love is catchy, upbeat, and frequently quite funny, in addition to being soundly played and produced with a homegrown flavor that can’t be bought down at the corner market. The album is a collaboration between Wiesner and some key members of the TDRCO crew, with label-mates and founders Ryan Michael Block and Mariya May helping with many aspects of the instrumentation, arrangements, and production. The bulk of Takin’ a Chance on Love was recorded live in the studio first with some overdubs later, giving it an open, spontaneous feel. Given the cross-pollination here with the prolific Block and May, any fan of TDRCO’s other output should immediately tune to the stylistic overlap in texture and feel, as the bedrock indebtedness to bygone-era psych, folk, acoustic minimalism, reggae, and vintage American lo-fi weirdness present in so much of the TDRCO back catalogue is scrawled all over Takin’ a Chance on Love. Still, what is central throughout is Wiesner’s easy-flow, arresting vocal presence and a host of simple yet effective arrangements, which come together right now over you into a fully realized and highly entertaining listen that highlights well Wiesner’s individualistic rhyme and reason. Takin’ a Chance on Love is essentially vintage 60’s psychedelia refracted through a 90’s lo-fi aesthetic lens, calling to mind acts such as earlier (but not noisier) Ween, Skip Spence, The Charm of the Highway Strip-era Magnetic Fields, the melodic side of Sebadoh, strains of British strange-wave folkies such as Nick Drake, and neo-neo-psychonauts like The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Devendra Banhart, among many others.
Much like Wiesner’s efforts in his band Nodding Tree Remedies, Takin’ a Chance on Love is possessed of hummable melodic arcs, freak-folk aesthetics, and seeming throw-away lyrics that on repeat listens reveal deeper authorial angles. Tracks flow stylistically, yet all the while hang on a central theme that runs the length of the album, giving Takin’ a Chance on Love a strong sense of cohesion. Opening up with the evocative, tongue-in-cheek chamber pop storytelling of "Malibu", the record winds its way through a menagerie of different unique vantage points, such as the Skip Spence-meets-Ennio Morricone desert weariness of "Wandering One", the country dust stains of "Critter Sister", the interlocking island keys and bassline of "Messed It Up With My Little Honey", the upbeat 60’s psych and lyrical inanity of "Mosquito Thirsty", and the down-tempo feel and simple flute lines of "How’s The Dog".
Lashing this hull together is Wiesner’s flexible, oft-versatile vocal presence, which meanders in tone and vibrato from dust-covered Leonard Cohen swagger ("Wandering One"), to world-weary country lilt ("Critter Sister"), to rainbow-hued Golden Gate Park folk fallout ("Moon Rover", "Mosquito Thirsty"). Perhaps the fecundity is due to Wiesner’s long-time choir participation (stretching back to his childhood), yet however you call it, the pinwheel variations in both voice and musical accompaniment make for a varied listen all the way around, and add another layer of depth to the album. Lyrical themes run from curiouser to curiouser still, and listeners are treated to songs about moon rovers gathering dust, plastic flower factories, penguin costumes, bloodsucking mosquitoes, hot pants, and eloquent elephants, all of which are sewn together into an imagistic, surrealist pillow of wit and whimsy that never takes itself overly seriously, but that also doesn’t substitute outright silliness for substance. (Reed Burnam)