After dropping three albums in little more than a year with the terrific psych-rock band Wand, Cory Hanson has been uncharacteristically quiet in 2016—but that silence ends November 11, when he releases his first solo record, The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo (Drag City). With Wand Hanson has displayed an expansive vision, balancing warped psychedelic impulses with a strong pop sensibility and using his nasal singing, often pushed into a quavering falsetto, to provide a common thread even as the general sound of the group changes significantly from record to record. But on The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo he chases an aesthetic distinct from anything Wand has done, trading in electric-guitar fuzz for pastoral strings.
Across the album’s eight songs, Hanson strums an acoustic guitar and sings tender melodies in a charming but clearly fake British accent, while violinist and violist Heather Lockie gilds the tunes with her gorgeous string arrangements (she’s supported by cellist Emily Elkin and violinist Laena Myers-Ionita). The performances sometimes remind me a little of Arthur Lee’s Love at its most serene, as well as the biting vocal tone of John Lennon; I also hear bits of Syd Barrett and early David Bowie, but Hanson has his own thing going on. A handful of tracks include lean, effective drumming by Evan Burrows, and another features percussion from the tireless Ty Segall, but those rhythms add subtle propulsion rather than set the tone.
Hanson’s lyrics mix the otherworldly and the dystopian, and on the single “Ordinary People” (embedded below) he opens with the lines, “Ordinary people took my mother from me / Put her in a bag / And sent her floating in space.” More interesting than his words, though, is the way his voice flutters above the guitar arpeggios and sorrowful strings. I hope Hanson continues to make relatively wiggy stuff with Wand, but I’m also glad to see this new side of his considerable talent.
Hanson and Lockie play songs from the new record on Saturday evening at Drag City’s Soccer Club Club as part of the opening reception for an exhibition featuring work by artists who “all have some connection to sound, through composer fathers, musician spouses, studying dance, creating music videos, or incorporating musical lyrics in their work.” The reception and show are free, and Bitchin Bajas brain trust Cooper Crain DJs.
Jason Eckardt, Subject (Tzadik)
Jimmy Woods Sextet, Conflict (OJC/Contemporary)
Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels (Fool’s Gold)
Sven-Åke Johansson/Andrea Neumann/Axel Dörner, Grosse Gartenbauausstellung (Olof Bright)
Conjunto Casino, Rumba Quimbumba: 1941-46 (Tumbao)