Twenty years after [a]Howe Gelb[/a]began his magnificent obsession with the dusty, godforsaken spaces of Arizona, this album confirms him as a founding father of modern Americana. It is full of the spry asides, parched landscapes and mercurial musical crossbreeding that has characterised previous Gelb outings – try the scorched earth hardcore of ‘1972’, the salacious jazz bop of ‘Temptation Of Egg’ or the space ballad ‘Astonished…’ for starters.
But ‘Chore Of Enchantment’ rises to the challenge laid down by Gelb’s peers and stands proudly between The Flaming Lips’ ‘The Soft Bulletin’ and Lambchop’s ‘Nixon’ – raiding America’s cultural aquarium to create a bold, often disorienting world.
Dedicated to slide-guitar master and Gelb collaborator Rainer Ptacek, ‘Chore…’ is full of loss and wondering, tremulous sensitivity and gentle explosions of colour, distant fireworks in a night sky. Howe’s ability to create a raw but tender empathy in songs full of unexpected departures (the beautiful ‘Shiver’, the funny fatalistic ‘Satellite’, the gentle awe of ‘Dirty From The Rain’) has never been greater. For once a decision to record with three different producers in (at least) four different locations actually gives the album the scope and cohesion the compositions require. There’s never been a better time to get your head stuck in the Sand.