It is clear that Clay Ruby, Davenport founder and member of many projects here, has spent a lot of time on this release. Consisting of five 3" CDRs, this set acts as an audio scrapbook documenting the changes and progressions in the Davenport Family network of bands in the Midwest. The CDRs come in spray-painted paper sleeves inside a box decorated with foil and a sycamore seed - and there is a text telling the story so far. Among the players are Davenport, db Pederson, the Mudslide Family, the Grass Magic (the name for campfire jams at Aspen Farm) and Nic Stage, all of whom get longer songs. A bewildering array of outsiders make up the remainder, rather like a modern day version of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. The quantity and brevity of some of these recordings do indeed make for quite difficult listening but this is excusable given the didactic purpose of the project.
On 'Blood and Rhum Offering', Davenport's slow accordion breaths and mumbling Appalachian vocals recall the bigger-picture wonderment of Sigur Ros, but in more primitive terms. And at the start of the track when gangster rap is switched off and mouse-like percussion clatter begins, there is a feeling of subconsciousness, which is apt given the liner notes, which tell us that few involved can remember this jam.
Other highlights are the more mysterious tracks. (The Davenport Family, we are told in the liner notes, was inspired to take on a new and mysterious bent on the arrival of a strange audio document on microcassette in 2002.) The baffling and surreal Train Unit's primitive guitar and children's voices works well, coming across like a Residents circa Meet the Residents era bad dream. The Garage Indians' avant-garage drums and vocals over radio broadcast racket also works well - no doubt helped by knowledge of the fact that Mansfield operates this band from an abandoned school in a remote area of rural Wisconsin. Similarly enigmatic is Wolf in the Breast's minimal and beautiful xylophone and quiet drone based improv.
The Davenport Family is also at its best when it turns its collective attention to the traditional song form. Maths Balance Volumes' Clay Kolbinger successfully reworks the man and guitar ballad on 'the Vampire' by fusing it with bursts of tape noise and screeching violin, to create a light and dark which fits the title of the song. And Theresa Behnen and Clay Ruby's A Lamb Called Light project - which seeks to explore the folk song from a specifically spiritual source - does a good job of marrying Davenport-style percussion with Behnen's softly sung vocals.
In short, if you can still find a copy, this boxset is worth getting for the great insight it gives us into the strange and unique approach of the Davenport Family to free-improv. 8/10 -- Matt Lindley (27 June, 2006)