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Robert Poss, "Drones, Songs and Fairy Dust"

Drones, Songs and Fairy DustAcross the 16 songs that make up this album, the title makes perfect sense: a myriad of abstract, expansive pieces, full-fledged songs, and odd little miniatures. All of them are linked together with Robert Poss's infinite love for the electric guitar, however, and as a whole, it encapsulates much of the sound he has cultivated throughout his entire career.

Trace Elements

Poss is best known for his tenure as guitarist/co-vocalist of Band of Susans, a band that often seems relegated to a footnote in discussions of noisy, unconventional guitar-based rock music, or for a number of years just cited as Page Hamilton's pre-Helmet band. Which is, of course, a disservice given how they expertly bridged the late 1980s "college rock" sound and the avant garde together. This style that he pioneered with bassist/vocalist Susan Stenger is never far on this new album, either.

Right from the opening "Secrets, Chapter and Verse," he channels this via panned guitar passages, drum machine programming, and vocals. Another of the 'songs,' "Hagstrom Fragment," has identical elements throughout, but a bit more of a bass-lead sound at first, and a bit more in the way of filtering and effects provide a different feel entirely. The sparse arrangement and lo-fi filtering of "Your Adversary" lend a wonderful "lost demo" vibe that sounds like anything but unfinished, however.

One of the most overt of the 'drone' pieces, "Foghorn Lullaby," is named perfectly, as Poss conjures that sound, with all its bassy resonance, via instrumentation, adding layers but never losing that singular focus. The open and sustained structure of "Skew Forest" certainly fits the drone criteria as well, although Poss mixes it up with some melodic playing towards the middle. "Trem 23" comes from a similarly abstract place, resembling a guitar sound being dragged through as many effects pedals as possible.

The 'fairy dust' segments are a bit less clearly defined, although the two songs that feature it in the title sound thematically linked. Poss begins "Out of the Fairy Dust" shimmering, twinkling passages of ethereal guitar that he assembles layer by layer before eventually bringing in a rhythm segment that could almost be described as "jaunty." The other piece, "Into the Fairy Dust," is similarly situated in the higher frequency end of the spectrum, with the drum machine kept low in the mix leading into a chiming conclusion.

Given his dedication to the electric guitar that has never waned, it is not surprising that Robert Poss's Songs, Drones and Fairy Dust does not sound too far away from his work with Band of Susans. It never comes across as treading overly familiar ground, however, and instead sounds like a natural progression from his previous work. Memorable and catchy songs, abstract expeditions, and visceral guitar intensity are all presented beautifully, channeling his past without lingering in it.

Listen here.