You might think that these two way-outside songwriting projects released on Friends and Relatives have a bit in common, partially because Iâ€™m reviewing them together. But actually they make a fascinating pair not because theyâ€™re similar, but because they reflect quite opposing songwriting philosophies (if you can call it that â€“ more on this in a second) that are being shoehorned into the same aesthetic.
Churchburners is the project of Rockford, ILâ€™s Zach Ippen. Already Done Did is basically a best-of collection, compiling several pieces from his prolific discography. Ippen has some funny monologues and an intermittently goofy side, and Iâ€™d argue that these are important insertions into the tape. They show how deeply immersed Ippen is in his music-making, and the feeling is infectious as you listen to totally blown-out electronic and noise numbers and epic acoustic balladry and everything in between. The Churchburners material feels totally organic and sincere, like it couldnâ€™t have been made any other way. Which is significant, because itâ€™s a series of bizarrely and crudely constructed 4-track songs that could seem off-putting, but nevertheless are genuinely fascinating. The internal logic remains remote, but itâ€™s there.
On the other hand, Jon Middletonâ€™s tape as Growth Spert comes off as significantly more stylized. It has an internal order that is standoffish, taking more conventional songwriting structures and putting them through the junk-shop-percussion and off-key vocal wringer. Middleton does use homemade and found instruments, and itâ€™s still super rough, so I hesitate to label it as ironic or calculated, but Middleton never seems to reach the emotional depths that Ippen does, remaining somehow detached throughout. The feeling, the motivation behind Growth Spert on this tape is totally different than Churchburners.
Both tapes get the Friends and Relatives treatment: home dubbing, collagistic and vaguely transgressive imagery, a certain anonymity. None of this is disparaging, but it should be a reminder of the vast gaps between albums that initially seem to sound quite similar.
Churchburners, â€śAlready Done Didâ€ť
Growth Spert, â€śSolar Maximumâ€ť