decker. Harnesses the Soul of the Southwest on Slider

It was over three years ago that Brandon Decker decided to leave the hustle and bustle of Phoenix in search of inspiration to find himself relocated in Sedona, Arizona—since that time his quest has served him well, not only in terms of the music that he and his band decker.  produces, but in the  sheer amount he has released and the fervor of the crowds they attract no matter where they play. The music is clearly drawn from the very land of the southwest itself, from all that is comforting, eerie, haunting, healing, harsh and beautiful about it at once, as though he and his partners are able to somehow evoke the very taste of Arizona—from the scent of desert sage after a late afternoon summer rain, to the taste of the very dust in your teeth after a monsoon uprising.  I find in decker. what I find in many bands that are able to invoke their own vision of the desert (Huckleberry, Fatigo, Nowhere Man & A Whiskey Girl) but, somehow decker. carves something unique out of the quintessence they grasp in the land of red clay mountains and vortices—the music takes on something a spiritual mantle, nothing religious or new age driven, but a deeper, ancient calling rooted to the land itself. This is the music that  is presented on their fourth and most magnificent release to date, Slider.

The story of the making of Slider is a harrowing one unto itself.  decker. ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to complete the recording of their fourth release after the trio of triumphant records they already had under their collective belt:  Long Days (2009), Long as the Night (2010), and the eerily prophetically title Broken Belts, Broken Bones (2011)—amidst recording their fourth album tragedy struck as their tour van had a blowout on I-5 en route to Los Angeles, jackknifing their trailer and catapulting them across the median. Singer Kelly Cole was thrown from the vehicle and was found unconscious with a broken bone in her neck. “It was like a war zone, with this helicopter landing and dust and trash blowing everywhere and Kelly being carried out  on a stretcher while we just stared on in a daze trying to process what just happened,” Decker said of the accident. Luckily, this was one moment where the Arizona music community really showed how much it cared and many fundraising shows (largely held by echocloud.tv) were put in place and some of the thousands of dollars of damage lost in the wreckage were returned to the band, so that they could continue to tour and finish this amazing album.

So it will be, thanks to fate, strength and the coming together of a community that on February 26th, the world will be able to hear the result of this one bands vision, funded by a community that cares and a fan base that is eagerly supportive of the music they love. This is Slider. An album as much drawn from the land that has given birth to the inspiration for the music as it is propelled by the people who love the band and are quite willing to support it. What it is, is an absolute showcase for Brandon Decker, Kelly Cole, Bryant Vazquez, Phillip Robbins, Sam Cavanaugh and all others involved to shine beyond all expectations of their previous efforts combined.

Photo by Christian Rudman

Starting off with simple strumming, thunderous drums, the humming of a church organ, Brandon’s vocals, soon joined by Kelly’s, before the rest of the band kicks into full sound on “Speak In Tongues” the album begins with a hell of a start—and certainly part of the attraction here is Brandon’s unusual vocals that defy either qualification or quantification other than to say they are unusual, quirky and somehow perfectly appropriate in this deep dusk sunset of a musical setting—the very mortar upon which this brickwork is entirely founded and some of the most fascinating to be found.  The  stories are even told in a lexicon, a vocabulary that seem anachronistic in this day and age, without seeming misplaced: “I made the call of the ancient law and I’m out of breath, Oh, the wage of sin is emptiness and I’m dead at best.” “Interluder” is an eerie, at best, interregnum piece that follows, filled with musical soundscapes and fragments that are at one haunting and evoking of midnight shadows you might find filling you mind in the wilderness of an isolated Arizona camping excursion—it sounds familiar to me, because those are the sounds that fill my head when I imagine the devouring animals of shadow surrounding me, as I try to take it easy campfire side alone in the woods.

It is songs like “Weight In Gold Pt. 1” that, for my money, far outshadow the songs found on their previous albums, from the jaunty beginning that draws you in, which is downright infectious to the wind-down bridge and transition seemingly into a completely different song all together. A song far more introspective than where it began, one that reflects on the cost of, perhaps, the over-anxious energy found at the start. It finishes into a dusky haze, lost in its own dwelling, it’s only recollections of loss and mystery, weary from the long road travelled through exuberance to acceptance in some six minutes: “Oh, you’ve got a lesson to learn,” becomes in those few minutes “Oh, I learned less than you know” with a brilliant transition found inside. “Shadow Days” is yet another killer number, that breaks my heart every time when it explodes into the chorus 90 seconds in. The song is filled by a continuous, heavy brooding bass line that never alters all that much, while the rest of the band alternates between swaying around it subtly and exploding tumultuously within its midst. The song is pure genius, from wailing guitars, to almost a Zeppelin-esque bridge that can’t be quite processed properly until the third or fifth listen (mind you one preceded by the lyrics “This slip I’ve slipped, my wick is lit, You see the bridge? I’ve burned it down”), but by then it storms your mind, like watching a monsoon coming in on the scrublands approach for hours, knowing full well it’s going to wreck you, but you can’t tear your eyes away. Can you?

The seamless transition from “Shadow Days” to one of my favorite songs on the album “Blowhard” is a moment of pure genius.  By the time that “Blowhard” arrives, if you are not somehow sold on some aspect of Slider or decker. in general, I would begin to question your positioning in the universe. “The ship was only sinking”—after hearing the album, this was the first song I wanted to play on the radio—a perfect song indicting every individual to challenge that they have in fact created their own trappings, that they are responsible for the very construct of reality in which they currently find  themselves within. It is poetic truth, because you did it to yourself. It is an ultimate defense against the self-obsessed in every single line  of the song, poignantly delivered and sharply regarded. “In The Van” seems almost ominously titled in light of the events of what occurred to the recording, it is a fairly stark and haunting recording of both beauty and sadness, featuring some  of the most beautiful vocal work on the entire album, from the harmonies to the vocal rounds swimming about, it is a delightfully dizzying aural collage of confusion,  beauty and truth. Simply amazing.

Photo by Christian Rudman

 

“Weight In Gold, Pt. 2” comes on strong like an old-fashioned gunslinger number and in truth, lyrically, it’s exactly that. Atmospherically, this song is filled with so much old west bravado, that it’s overwhelming,  yet it never once approaches kitschy—this is a brilliant southwestern anthem, it’s also something I could see in the finale of a re-imagined western cinematic epic in which the ant-hero and  the true villain are preparing to face off in the finale. Yeah, it’s got that kind of amazing vibe to it. This is not an overstatement in any capacity. You can practically feel the dust on your boots during this number, taste the gun grease on your fingers, squint into the sun as you clutch for your revolver.  This IS desert music, like in old time, low down. The song that follows,  only continues in this vein, very nearly the funeral ballad that appropriately follows, “Killing Me” is oddly, considering the title, one of the sweetest, reflective numbers on the album. Laden with steel guitar (I’m a sucker for steel guitar in all of its incarnations), it comes off as a old west version of “Norwegian Wood” and every bit as impactful, the moment is both magical and brilliant.

Braced as the single for the album, “Cotton, Jane Doe” is one of the toughest, roughest feminist anthems straight out of hard drinking cowgirl lore, that it stuns the mind. It is amazing in its construction, both musically and lyrically, but of all things, the song ends too soon for my satisfaction. This is not often something I say often, as a fan of short songs, but in this song, I just want it to go on and on, but alas it ends all too soon, though I suspect that’s all due to the subject matter of our hard drinking,  hard loving protagonist found here. Slider finishes with the stark “Robes of a Prophet” an amazing finale of dizzying proportions with lyrics that may well be heavier than anything else found here and a conclusion that is, at the very least unsettling. Posed between an honest flawed protagonist and a pontificating, self-righteous individual it comes down to, “I have been foolish and I have been bold, I have been selfish and I have been spoiled, But I am not rotten and you are not god, I am not poisoned and you are not flawed.” Raw. Deep. Honesty. It could finish no other way with all we’ve been through on this sonic passage.

While Slider will be released to the world on February 26th, the real party for this magnificent album will be held by TMI of 106.7 at The Sail Inn on Friday, March 1st with a simply amazing lineup that will include local, state and national acts including Dry River Yacht Club, Future Loves Past, Snake! Snake! Snakes!, Zero Zero, Field Tripp, Fancy Cloud, Chimney Choir (Denver), Adam Faucett (Little Rock), The Tryst (Tucson), Them Savages (Flagstaff) and Vagabond Gods (Flagstaff). A simple fee of $10 will get you into this amazing event and guarantee you a digital download of Slider. A few surprises are promised to come, including Punk Rock Pizza at the show (delicious!!!) and the festivities, all of which you will want to witness will begin at 6pm.

(This articled appeared in slightly edited form in the February Issue of JAVA Magazine)

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