Release Date: Jun 15, 2010
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Country, Contemporary Bluegrass, Progressive Bluegrass, String Bands
Bluegrass is not kids’ play—never has been. Hard to play and sing, dealing with dire subjects, requiring ensemble interplay of the highest order, this music is serious. But as in so many other arts, masters of the form made the difficult seem effortless. From Bill Monroe to Nickel Creek, great bluegrass bands seemed to draw joy from the musical tightrope walking.
What impressed most about Punch Brothers’s debut, Punch, was how the band demonstrated a willingness to explore high-minded, classically inspired composition within the context of traditional acoustic music. But that album split its running time between terrific standalone tracks and a multi-song suite composed by frontman and mandolin wunderkind Chris Thile, making for an unbalanced listen. For their sophomore outing, Antifogmatic, the brothers have done a far better job of incorporating their most sophisticated aspirations into a more conventional album format.
Mandolin player and singer Chris Thile's band Punch Brothers may have a standard bluegrass lineup also including a guitar, banjo, fiddle, and bass, but if their music fits into the bluegrass category at all, it's only because of that instrumentation. On their debut, Punch, and this follow-up, Antifogmatic (said to be a word referring to a 19th century alcoholic drink thought to be a cure for bad weather), Punch Brothers play in a style beyond the "contemporary bluegrass" or even "newgrass" tags; "progressive bluegrass" (as in "progressive rock") might be closer to the mark, or even "avant-garde bluegrass. " On Punch, Thile introduced a four-part, 40-minute suite called "Blind Leading the Blind.
Here We Go Magic Luke Temple could be talking to himself in a song called “Collector” on Here We Go Magic’s second album, “Pigeons” (Secretly Canadian), when he sings, “You find the Lord in repetition.” His kind of repetition is the ceaseless, clockwork patterns of New York City art ….
The first thing that stands out about Punch Brothers’ sophomore release Antifogmatic is its name. Taken from a popular 19th century alcoholic remedy for facing intemperate weather, the title offers a glimpse at the album’s tone, especially in contrast to the band’s debut record, Punch. Where Punch offered a more introspective and melancholy vibe via its four-movement centerpiece, “The Blind Leaving the Blind,” Antifogmatic is a more celebratory affair, while still maintaining a grounded presence.