REVIEW: KARL BLAU ~ OUT HER SPACE

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Last year when Karl Blau released Introducing Karl Blau, producer Tucker Martine explained the reason for titling a record released by an artist with well over a dozen albums to his name already Introducing… and his explanation was something along the lines that, for Karl after signing with Bella Union and after getting the most wide release of his career it made sense to treat the album as the world’s introduction to Karl Blau. It was a really smart move, Karl Blau has long been the best kept secret of the Pacific Northwest and considering how beautiful Introducing... was why not treat it as Karl’s big break-out party. There was just one but, and a really small one, but Introducing… was not an original Karl Blau album, it was an album of carefully crafted covers, and Karl Blau’s real brilliance is in his original music.

Look, were Karl’s big break to have come in part to recordings of dogs sining Christmas carols, as long as the end result is the world getting more Karl Blau, there’s nothing to really complain about. That Introducing… was so very good is just icing. Out Her Space is Karl Blau doing his thing which is relentlessly exploring and striving to find an original and virtually undefinable sound. From beginning to end Karl finds this exceptional middle ground between full on experimentation and addictive pop hooks. Just listen to the opening track Slow Children¬†with a chorus that you can’t help but sing, by the songs conclusion there’s an eruption of instruments flying in from every direction a master class in experimentation.

Out Her Space is old-new. Blau fans have likely heard most of these songs in one way or another, many of them have appeared on one of his many releases, the origin of this album goes way back to 2007ish. But never has the mix sounded so good, so polished- which is a bit of an oxymoron for Karl who’s best known for going with the flow, leaving in mistakes, and exploring a songs flaws in depth. Beckon is a beautifully crafted song totally devoid of classification, a total melting pot of genre and sounds but that song if far for perfect, there are a few jarring musical shifts, some off key vocals, Karl pushes his voice too far at times, and you’re probably going to wonder if two songs are playing simultaneously by the end. That is brilliance because you’re listening to that song and you’re totally lost in it.

Karl didn’t write this album for 2017 but it unfortunately draws similar parallels now as it did back when he wrote and recorded it. Wash the War Away, Slow Children are just as important and relevant now. And the way Karl plays with instruments, rhythms, and other sounds it’s unlikely that you’ll find a moment on this album that sounds “dated” it’s the very definition of timeless.

There are a lot of brilliant songwriters, amazingly talented musicians, artists who write legitimate hit after hit or strike an emotional chord with ease, but few can actually be refereed to as genius. A handful of years ago now I drove up to Karl’s house in Anacortes Washington for an interview. I pulled up to his house and heard music blasting from the little shed in his back yard “his personal music studio.” I stood in the doorway as he listened to the guitar track he’d just recorded and I watched a totally unseen and unheard song play out in his eyes. He played it back again and I asked him a questions about the song which I can no longer remember and he explained to me what his plan was as various milestones were reached in the song. He built the song right there overriding himself, backtracking, multitasking, to the point where I almost felt bad, like I was impending the growth of a song. That is genius. Karl Blau is a genius, and Out Her Space lays that genius out in all its glory for everyone to see.

Every new Karl Blau album is like waking up on Christmas morning having never asked Santa for presents, yet when you go downstairs a pile of packages lay underneath the tree the contents of each is a complete and wonderful surprise. Out Her Space is out now on Bella Union and it is like a little pieces of magic. Pick it up here right now.

 

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