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Fat Spirit Cuts Through the Haze of Nihilist Blues

By Micah Barry

I would never describe myself as a nihilist, but I can say I’ve definitely experienced some Nihilist Blues in my life.

Through those periods of seeing the world as devoid of meaning or hopeless, music was the one thing that really kept me feeling like I could push through. Getting lost in albums that seemed to mirror my sentiments made me feel less alone and a little more hopeful.

Listening through Fat Spirit‘s new record, released digitally April 16th and on cassette May 5th via Citrus City Records, feels to me like a sonic callback to a lot of those CD’s I wore out to get through some rough points. But they approach those sounds from new angles and with open minds.

The album opens with “Obtuse Angle,” a perfect rolling intro that uses an infectious psych-informed new wavey groove that reminds me of driving with no A/C in my old hot ’94 Honda blasting Ride. Then it flows into “Cave,” one of my favorites. I love the way the opening riff of this song starts out by jerking you around a-la Isaac Brock before settling into a key changing groove and emotional chorus with vocals that hit me the same way Tim Kasher‘s did the first time I heard some of those tracks on Cursive‘s The Ugly Organ. It all makes for a blast of a way to spend three minutes.

Speaking of the guitar/bass tone, they both sound fantastic and carefully chosen, I think it’s a great example of Fat Spirit’s ear for being able to navigate disparate influences while still making their songs really cohesive.

The next few tracks definitely show this off as well; the boys take us on a little trip that feels like they’ve tapped into some of the high points of late 80’s/early 90’s alternative. They touch on a little Dismemberment Plan before giving us a hazy stomp (“Great Divide”) that takes the dissonance of Evol/Sister era Sonic Youth and mixes it with a catchy chorus to give the whole song a warmer feel.

The whole ride through this record though (and it is definitely a ride, I couldn’t ever quite predict what they’d do next), Fat Spirit incorporates a gorgeous and colorful range of sounds that I’m not all that used to hearing from bands who write emotional music. They manage to be atmospheric and hazy without sounding apathetic about it, which really makes this album stand out for me.

Listening to Nihilist Blues for a couple weeks, I think my favorite cut is “Dagger.” The track starts out contained with a tight spidery guitar line that sounds like something Stephen Malkmus may have written if he spend more time practicing guitar, and spills out into a chorus flush with fuzz, reverb and vocals harmonies. It’s extremely easy to get lost in, and I did just that until I was jarred back into reality by the sharp guitar and spoken vocal beginning of “Outside,” bringing to mind Thurston Moore or Eugene Robinson from Oxbow.

The album culminates with another favorite, the track “Sleeping.” This one will surely be stuck in my head for the rest of the week at least.

“I fall back into me” vocalist John Graham sings as the drum fills and guitar swells propel the song endlessly forward until it dissolves into a warm hug of guitar noise that feels like Fat Spirit is letting you know, even if everything seems meaningless occasionally, we can still connect through our mutual blues.

To celebrate First Friday’s and the release of Nihilist Blues, Fat Spirit performs at Gallery5 on May 5th with Big NoSlump and Dynamo. Admission is free.