Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Peculiar Pretzelmen - Innumerable Seeds of Calamity

It can be difficult to describe the Pretzelmen without evoking Tom Waits - at least for me - as that is the most similar musical token that comes to mind. This duo - percussionist Deacon and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Incroyable - are joined here by a number of other musicians, including very effective horn sections, vocalists, and who-knows-what-all to create a sound that is old-timey hobo-jazz mixed with gypsy rhythms, blues, folk and anything else that comes to mind. Sometimes you'll think you're listening to 30's cartoon music, sometimes Romanian campfire tunes, and other times drunken sailor shanties.

This CD was recorded in 2010, so I don't know if Kevin did not have some of his current hand-made instruments (the film canister banjo and uke, to name a couple) or if it simply the recording techniques, but the stringed instruments sound more organic here, which I like. The horns are of the less common clarinet/oboe variety (as opposed to sax/trumpet/etc.), which adds to the nostalgic feel. But, Incroyable's songwriting has enough oddness throughout to keep you from ever quite knowing what to expect next and his vocals range from a croon to a howl. Deacon's highly creative percussion compliments the stories that Kevin tells and is often another voice for the lyrics.

While I use Waits as a touchstone to give an idea of the style, the Pretzelmen really just sound like themselves - and they have quite a bit of variety within their idiom. All of the CDs - and there are a number - they are quite prolific - are great and they're highly entertaining live, so see 'em/hear 'em whenever and however you can!