Release Date: Oct 27, 2014
Record label: DFA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Experimental Rock
The world wasn't quite ready for Slim Twig's A Hound at the Hem when it surfaced in 2012. The psychedelic art-rock crooner born as Max Turnbull had created the album partially to fulfill a contract with his label at the time, but he mostly made it with the desire for it to be his Pet Sounds. Unfortunately, it made Paper Bag unsure, so they refused to release it.
Output from Canadian sound experimenter and garbage rock madman Slim Twig has always been a grab bag of styles and rapid-fire ideas. Rudimentary samples, rockabilly riffing, and hints of noise, glam, and punk theatrics all found their way into Twig's various projects as his creative drive morphed from record to record and project to project. A Hound at the Hem is another in a long line of his complex and sometimes brain-melting recordings, but it's easily the most dense and possibly most remarkable entry in his already widely varying catalog.
Slim Twig is a young man from Toronto named Max Turnbull and, among other things, his work makes the case that Bobby Pickett’s "Monster Mash" might well be a cultural high-water mark. He's by no means a novelty act, however; Turnbull takes underground art seriously and literally, releasing spooky, risen-from-the-grave albums like A Hound at the Hem that feature multi-layered, sophisticated pop songs mired in misdirection and haunted-house trickery. When he was the toast of Toronto a few years ago, Slim Twig was an intriguing cultural cross between John Waters, Vincent Price, and Gene Pitney—high-minded, campy, and playful enough to draw us into his surreal world of rockabilly blues and horror.
Toronto’s Slim Twig recorded A Hound at the Hem in 2010 and released it himself, but a wider audience beckons with this release. While his sound textures are rooted in classic pop – Shroud by the Sheetful’s harpsichord recalls psych-pop, while the strings and chugging rhythm of Heavy Splendour are straight out of ELO’s armoury – Twig pays scant attention to melodic conventions. Chaos and disorientation prevails, which at times, such as on Maintain the Charade, leaves us at sea in a mire of clashing instrumentation.
Toronto’s Slim Twig – the alias for Max Turnbull – is a bit of a triple threat. For one, he is an actor, probably best known for playing Billy Zero in the 2007 Canadian independent film The Tracey Fragments, which starred Ellen Page. He is also a music producer – he helmed the recent release, GEM, by his wife Megan Remy, who records under the moniker U.S.
Despite the stage name, Slim Twig is not actually a cigar-chomping septuagenarian Mississippi Delta blues guitarist; rather, the young man known to his film-maker parents as Max Turnbull is a slicked-back, sharp-suited twenty-something Canadian multi-tasker with an uncanny knack for charmingly retro psych-pop. He's also an accomplished actor, the co-founder - alongside his wife Meg Remy (whose band U.S. Girls he also plays in and produces) - of his own record label, and the recipient of comparisons in terms of both style and substance to David Bowie, Lou Reed, Nick Cave and Elvis.