After making waves with his local band Rescue earlier this decade, frontman-turned-solo artist Alan Scheurman releases his new record, Old Patterns, as a free download this week. What would otherwise be fairly straightforward folk tracks are given far-out treatment, thanks to production from His Name Is Alive mad scientist Warren Defever at Detroit's UFO Factory.
The psychedelic-folk blueprints laid out in Rodriguez's classic "Sugarman" — a musician and his guitar out in front, with art-rock orchestration sculpted around it — basically comprise the foundation of Old Patterns. Scheurman's voice and guitar strumming are fragile and old-fashioned against the record's recurring ominous motifs of bassy horn blasts, reverb and noise. The juxtaposition, as strange as it may sound on paper, makes for a chilly but quite sweet record.
Most of the record's comprised of solid folk with subtle embellishments, although Scheurman, Defever and the backing band take the premise to even weirder heights throughout the disc. "Marco Polo" is clearly the most rocking of the bunch, featuring machine-gun drums and a repetitive, crunchy riff before the whole thing ends with what sounds like a tribal version of the freeform jazz drum solo from a Wes Anderson movie. At the most extreme end of the spectrum is the album closer, "Heat Death" (named after a theoretical end to the universe), which actually concludes with a good sonic approximation of the cosmos grinding to a halt, as well as "New York Underwater," a noise track that could have very much been created by what the title describes.
The recent trend of artists releasing direct-to-download frees them from having to stay inside the box and perhaps even allows them to be a little self-indulgent. (Did anyone other than Trent Reznor's most devoted fans actually need to hear his instrumental albums?) But as experimental as it is overall, Old Patterns is well worth the click of a mouse. In other words, it's quite a trip. Get a taste at alanscheurman.com.
Leyland "Lee" DeVito reviews music for Metro Times. Contact [email protected].