Ah, the instrumental side project, where the "serious" musician in a relatively popular group heads to explore the ideas that are beyond the rest of his bandmates. Humorless, esoteric, unaccomplished, dilettantish-- you know, those kinds of ideas. From a consumer standpoint, such music is generally the domain of completists, fans so devoted to the flagship that they must own every record any member has ever touched.
When experimental Chicago-based duo On Fillmore came up with the title Extended Vacation they must have been imagining a getaway in the rain forest. For their fourth album (their third widely released one), bassist Darin Gray and drummer Glenn Kotche create a somber soundtrack by piecing together kitchen-sink hand percussion, jazzy walking basslines, and laid-back xylophone and vibraphone chimes -- all embellished with rustling brushes and animal squawks and chirps. These visceral jungle sounds that dominate the record sound authentic, as if they were captured on location in Africa, but in reality, they come straight from the throat of band pal DeDe Sampaio, who imitated bird chirps from the inside of a grain silo.
Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and Jim O'Rourke bassist Darin Gray needed three years to create, during breaks in their schedules, the unhurried dream-like expedition that is their fourth full-length album. First track Checking In immerses you in the untamed wilderness of this vacation. The bird chirping might remind you of nature discs found in national park gift shops, but the duo's careful not to overdo it.
If there’s one thing Glenn Kotche’s intricate work as drummer for Wilco proves, it’s that the man likes his noise. Disparate sounds, space, silence, atmosphere—Kotche knows well how to deal in these eccentricities and deliver them with subtlety. In his work with Darin Gray as On Fillmore, that subtle touch with noisy expansion is on display, and Extended Vacation may be the duo’s most expansive, spacious record to date.
On Fillmore All of the music on “Extended Vacation” (Dead Oceans), out on Tuesday, hews to this duo’s trademark prescriptions: slow development and spooky ambience, rooted in cycles of resonance and decay. For the members of On Fillmore — the bassist Darin Gray, an experimental-music polymath, and the percussionist Glenn Kotche, a member of the rock band Wilco — that’s an ideal as deceptively simple as a Zen koan. The album, evocatively bookended by pieces called “Checking In” and “Clearing Out,” proposes an enveloping journey.