Butane Variations
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Butane Variations

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Brooklyn’s Butane Variations have a name for their brainstorms and the subsequent nights or the night’s sequential sparkings. It sounds like more of a phrase about something you do – the imagined noise that comes rushing to the blind eye’s windshield is one of a pressurized release, a deep-throated reverse suction that goes from the gut into the high ceilings with some spillage and splashing striking clean shoes below. Homespun with moonshine and melancholia, the songs that emerge from these focused sessions of experimenting and work seem to be branded with the shroud of ambivalence. They go out there and spout about the taste of George Washington’s wooden teeth and kind of call him out as a punk. The next minute they’re secular and then it’s a swing over to the modestly spiritual carousel, with paupers and believers poofing into the center of their stories with their hands out and their jaws on the floor, just to pass this way or that in the next miracle minute. The creative period they like to call “popping tonic” and the secret potion that they’re summoning in these presumably late ass evening séances is one of romantic country music getting into a social mixer with a miscellaneous array of renegade vibrations that jiggle the sound and give it different colorings to go along with its constantly shifting parameter. The idea is never to be too sweet or to be too difficult, it’s just to get to the knot and work it out with a two-handed massage. The group’s self-titled debut on Achord Records doesn’t spell out any particular definition or direction, just that the band is going to take it upon itself to relieve tension. It is going to go out of its way to mellow the fires, to douse the blaze with cold compresses and cool words that move like dusty tumbleweeds across a sandy panoramic skyline, beneath a fading orange blush. They’ve earned their coveted sainthood in their searching woes and desperate readings into the readings of palms. There’s a lot of shivering before heat and then huddling with heads gently resting upon another, comforting whatever scary thoughts are rampaging upstairs. - Daytrotter.com


What is sometimes surprising about Butane Variation’s live sets are how weird and visceral they can become. Sure, some of their recordings are rocking (as a verb) but they don’t prepare you for the noise the four musicians make upon the stage, most recently at Boulder Coffee Company in Rochester, NY. The end of a dozen dates (the band left South Carolina the morning of the 18th to make it to the Boulder show) BV played many new numbers that one can assume will be a part of a new LP planned for a September release.

The band’s first show at Boulder Coffee, on November 18, 2007, ended with the band descending from the stage and serenading the audience on acoustic guitars and blocks of wood. Their second show began this way, singing the mantra “Circle / Triangle / Square” repeatedly amidst verses largely unintelligible, all four band members singing and making noise.

Resuming the pulpit the band played over a dozen songs including the unreleased (and untitled?) song that announces, “I never wrote a song on the electric guitar,” with both electric guitars bending strings and distorting themselves before sweetly “I’m gonna write one for my friends/ Wherever they are.”

The gorgeous “Goldie Hawn” (from the LP) was bracketed by a long story from guitarist/vocalist Phil Weinrobe about the band playing and losing a Frisbee in the ocean, a story which intended to (but did not) explain the song, though as it was one of my two favorite from the first LP I had no complaints. The other favorite, “Big Belly Laugh,” which I chided the band for not playing last time, was dedicated to yours truly and scratched my itch. “Little Debbie” was also called for from some girls dancing in the back who requested it under the title “Kitchen’s On Fire! Kitchen’s On Fire!” due to the song’s lyrics about such a place.

The penultimate “I’ve Been To Heaven (In My Mind)” assured us that “Good were the words coming down.” And good they were. Just before “Heaven” the band eased its way through “Mix Tape Honey,” an ode to lonely listening to songs like itself on lonely partner-made compilations. “When you’re kicked out of your heaven/ Skinned your knee down on the earth/ And you’re singing in your hymnbook/ Sing it down, go ahead, go on.” They passed the hat (or in this case, the large glass tip jar) to offset the free show and we were all happy to toss some dollars into the band’s gas tank, back to New York City, where I trust they are sitting around apartments writing gems like “Honey.” - StereoSubversion.com


Riding banjo grooves and dizzy electronic spirals, Butane Variations merge country-fried tunes with disaster laden computer sounds and funky rocking beats. It's like that last moment when your life plays back before your eyes, only the soundtrack to your final gasp isn't Jay-Z or Gwen Stefani, but a weird band who can't decide whether they are electronic, acoustic, or a chamber inspired. Death is funny that way, there are no guarantees that the grim reaper will take song requests during your final seconds on Mother Earth.

Based in Brooklyn, New York, of all places, the six-piece Butane Variations are as sunny/sweet sounding as eggs frying and bacon snapping somewhere in the Appalachians on a misty morning in May. Led by Phil Weinrobe and John-Paul Norpoth, Butane Variations maintain an aw shucks persona, even while wailing trumpet over scalding explosions ("Airforce One"), spinning country rock sirens worthy of early McQuinn and seminal Parsons ("Skyward, Upward"), or oddly mixing Conway Twitty/Simon & Garfunkel vocals and lower east side indie instrumentation with damaged pop portent ("Goldie Hawn"). Wilco make great claims for their pain-on-our-sleeves music-as-art, but Butane Variation simply take from the same place--and do it better. It's fun fun fun, and they even know Goldie Hawn is hotter than her daughter could ever be. - Yahoo.com


This sparkling delight sidles up to you, grinning with warm mischief, then sweeps you off your feet with a single-finger push. Genuine charm has that kind of power. NYC's Butane Variations have created the stranger, darker, funnier cousin to Wilco's Sky Blue Sky, irresistible even as it drops its drawers and exposes their very human backsides. Mixed by Bryce Goggin (Phish, Dinosaur Jr.), this debut goes down easy but tucks away electric guitar forays and odd syllable strings to tickle your fancy on return visits. They describe themselves as Americana but it's a cosmically charged, weird-seeking version. Don't push play and expect Uncle Tupelo. Butane Variations have played with Akron/Family and their music shares some of their candy stripe swirl of pop and weird, not unlike early Robyn Hitchcock who I think Butane's "Skyward Upward" would make smile. There's just so much to like here. - Jambase.com


Discography

"Butane Variations" -- full-length LP
"Love Five Songs" -- EP
"Daytrotter Session" -- 4 songs recorded exclusively for Daytrotter.com
"Live at Mo' Pitkins in NYC" -- full-length live album recorded exclusively for iTunes -- to be released shortly

Single; "Goldie Hawn" -- currently played on Sirius Satellite Radio's indie channel "Left of Center" as well as NPR's Folk Alley

Photos

Bio

Based in Brooklyn, Butane Variations have been playing music in various incarnations since 2003 when they met in upstate NY. Officially forming as a 5-piece three years later, BV has since recorded a full-length record with Bryce Goggin (Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Angels of Light), toured the U.S., and headlined NYC After The Jump Pre-Party in 2007, playing to 400+ people on a Brooklyn rooftop.

Oddly enough, Young God Records' Akron/Family has begun implementing the non-album Butane Variations cut "Circle Triangle Square" into their live sets as a cover -- at one point having 5,000 people in Brazil singing along.

The band will be headlining the 3rd night of the Boulder Festival in Rochester, NY this July -- sharing a bill with Vetiver, Dr. Dog, etc.

See acoustic living room video recordings here:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=-ZKUZOr-eRQ
http://youtube.com/watch?v=3kx_KzIDKqA