Clogs are a group that I discovered in a rather haphazard way. Although I'd seen their name mentioned in a couple places on sites that I read reviews, I never clicked through actually read any more about them for some reason. Then, one day I was surfing a well-known auction site (which will remain un-named) and someone had used their name in the title of their auction in a reference to an artist I was actually searching for. Yes, that's a horrible way to find out about a group, but nonetheless my interest was piqued and I went to the website for Clogs and listened to some of their music and went ahead and hunted down their newest album.
Regardless of how I ended up coming to listen to Stick Music, I'm glad that I did, because it's a real gem of an album that probably hasn't gotten enough press as it should have. Clogs are a group led by one Padme Newsome and Bryce Dessmer (with various other members) that play a sort of modern take on chamber music. At times they sound like different pieces by the Kronos Quartet, and at other times they near the odd variation that groups like electronic-enhanced artists like The Books perform.
It helps that the group doesn't just limit themselves to string instruments (although the limitless possibilities of those instruments are just fine), as the group adds prepared guitar, guitar, and percussion in unique ways that only add to their compositions. The release actually opens with the lamenting "Ananda Lahari," and it's this short violin track that is easily the most stripped-down and plain (but still quite lovely) track on the release. From there, the group launches into one of several mini-epics with "Pencil Stick," a track that draws tension with quick string bows, plucked strings, and middle-eastern sounding percussion that all dance and progress in a delightful way with one another (and remind me of Michael Brooks' work with his infinite guitar on the 4AD label).
"Sticks And Nails" opens with struck reverberations that sound almost random at first, but then rhythmic violin playing rises out if it all before the track again detours into a wobbly, off-kilter track with tabla percussion before again moving back to building violins and then through several other variations on both themes in the course of over eight minutes. For the most part, the album is nine tracks and just under fifty minutes of music that finds a group really coming into their own in terms of creative and compositional powers. Like the aforementioned "Sticks And Nails," many of the tracks on the release are longer, but they never repeat themselves and often go in delightful, unexpected directions. Only the shorter "Lady Go" (the only track in which vocals make an appearance) feels a bit out-of-place on the release, but it's a minor quibble on a great album.