Gift Horse is Aaron Buckley. The Accidents, the 1998 release by this project, proudly falls within the "lo-fi" genre; the liner notes announce that "tape recorders and phonographs were the only mechanics used to record these songs." Drop any prejudice you may have against this sometimes-dubious musical style. While some of the ancillary touches of home recording (such as audible count-offs) are present, the fuzz is far from overpowering and Buckley uses his 4-track not as an excuse to unleash half-baked, tossed-off marginalia into the wide world, but instead as a tool to realize a sometimes beautiful musical vision. He is a talented instrumentalist and solid songwriter. The presents he bears on Accidents are folk-based, and as such, some of the leading lights of lo-fi-- Lou Barlow, Smog, the late Eric's Trip, and Hayden-- are decent reference points. Thankfully, this bedroom auteur displays influence while bringing his own ideas to the Tascam. Nimble circular guitar figures provide the momentum as Buckley's keening vocals interpret somewhat oblique lyrics through almost uniformly rich melodies. The second cut, "Cats on the Ceiling," is a great song that starts Accidents' A-side on a streak of winning tunes. With its mostly pop dada lyrics, loping rhythm git strum, raspy singing, and mouth harp parts, "Cats" could be a more polished outtake from Beck's K record. And then Buckley hits you with a stunning Spanish-sung break. "Neighbors"' drum machine click, sparse-then-spidery electric git lead, and bass drone varies the pace and sound while not obscuring the quality material at its center. "Imatation Family" takes a bass-heavy, gentler (almost slowcore) tact to its sad pop destination. "Spring Training" effectively matches fractured introspective pop moves and angular acoustic strums to keyboards high in the mix. A nice chorus, crescendoing dynamics, and odd percussion touches add interest to the side's last tune, "The Fall Of The Buffalo." Side Two opens uptempo "Parallel," a tune that should get your head bobbing and toe-tapping. "5-Card Play" is a gentle, bass-throbbing song that paints the pitiful picture of the workaday nowhere man. It drifts apart in the middle and then re-coagulates as the percussion kicks back in to tick away the rhythm of a half-hearted time bomb. "Dim Corner" similarly threatens to wispily fall away with "I'm not too cool/ an awkward fool," but instead craftily shifts into gear. Even the songs that don't grab me as much as the ones herein named are certainly amiable and listenable.
There are many reasons to seek out this Gift Horse. Whether you stick around for the "Revolution 9"-referencing tape collages that end each side is up to you.
For information on Gift Horse or Too Hip For The Room Records, send mail to 1801 Licoln Blvd. Suite 265, Venice, CA 90291.