Stumptone
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Stumptone

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To paraphrase Francois Villon, “Where are the avant-gardists of yesteryear?” Taking a look at the career trajectories of musos from the underground that oozed and slithered out of Denton, with a few tendrils here in the Fort, a decade or so ago, one might conclude, “All over the map!” Mazinga Phaser’s Wanz Dover and Eric Hermeyer, f’rinstance, are DJs – Wanz around the Metromess, Eric in Memphis. Ohm/Frankie Teardrop/Yeti mastermind Doug Ferguson left the planet in 2002. Sivad’s trumpet playing leading light Karl Poetschke seems to have abandoned his subsequent improv unit Ghostcar for life as a wilderness guide in Alaska -- although he’s made similar declarations before -- while drummer Quincy Holloway kicks the traps for the relatively-mainstream Dove Hunter, his post-Sivad dub outfit Sub Oslo having briefly returned from hiatus last fall for one final exorcism of the Wreck Room (R.I.P.). Trinidad Leal and Curt Christenson have abandoned the experimentalism of Light Bright Highway for the heavy rawk of Dixie Witch. Among its cohort, Chris Plavidal’s Stumptone, formed in 1996, remains the last band standing. In fact, they’ve become (by default) a Denton underground supergroup of sorts, incorporating the talents of drummer Mike Throneberry (Mazinga Phaser), bassist Peter Salisbury (Mandarin), and guitarist Frank Cervantez (Sub Oslo).

A crucial outlet for most of the aforementioned bands was Dave Willingham and Phillip Croley’s Two Ohm Hop label, which makes it entirely fitting and proper that in 2007, Stumptone finished recording a long-promised full-length CD, “Gravity Suddenly Released,” with Willingham manning the controls when he wasn’t running live sound for the Polyphonic Spree, and that it’s being released on Dave and Matt Barnhardt’s new Works Progress imprint. Historical considerations aside, “Gravity Suddenly Released” is a great, highly addictive sonic bath that conflates indie-“roots” sounds with psychedelia in a manner that recalls the best of “Piper”-through-“Meddle”-era Pink Floyd, Skip Spence, Elliott Smith, the Flaming Lips, and Mercury Rev. Its songs recede into ambient fields like soundtracks to dreams.

The title track – barely a sketch of a song, but given an epic performance -- opens the proceedings like a sleeping giant waking up, yawning, and flexing a few muscles, with acoustic guitar strummage that sounds like alt-country as imagined by David Gilmour, until a flash of lysergic guitar shatters the soundscape and there’s a “Pandora’s box” moment like the one on the Boredoms’ “Vision Creation Newsun” when all of the energy in the universe seems to have been unleashed, leaving the listener agog with awe as it recedes. And they’re just getting started. The dynamics of the following track, “Precipice,” are similar, seesawing between Theater Fire-like urban pastoralism and a heavy midtempo rock that sounds like every good idea to emerge from Seattle between 1987 and 1991. But before you get the idea that this disc is gonna consist of variations on a couple of different themes, “Halfforgotten” bursts out of the gate, a pummeling rocker that careens back and forth between 6/8 and 5/4 time. (There’s a ripping live version of this song on Youtube, from an appearance at Fort Worth’s Modern Art Museum last October.)

“Breeze” starts out as a gentle, wistful song, infused with wonder, its fuzzed-out guitar interjections serving as punctuation, before Plavidel’s spacey Echoplexed trumpet makes its appearance like Jon Hassell providing modal coloration for an Eno soundtrack. “ndrgrnd” is an interesting mélange of organic and synthetic elements that starts out with a Floydian collage of organ washes, synth pulsations, and taped sounds like train station announcements before the song proper begins, then segues seamlessly into “Hey!,” with its shimmering, crystalline guitar textures. “Pendulum” fades in with a motorik pulse that might lead the casual (but Krautrock-primed) listener to mistake it for an outtake from “Neu! 2.” “Texarkana” is a pretty tune that shifts to more dream-soundtrack music after the line “like ghosts in the twilight.” Speaking of which, the shade of Syd Barrett haunts the cover of Roky Erickson’s “Never Say Goodbye,” which gets an unadorned reading, aside from its claustrophobically close-miked vocal. “Via Xibalba” starts with tribal drumming and a rocket launching before lurching into a seasick waltz that continues until blasts of radio static herald the beginning of “rriinngg!!” “Entrada” is another driving rocker, pumping things up like some unholy mating of the Moody Blues and the Velvet Underground. “Brokenland” is a slow, mournful country song, decorated with keening fiddle (courtesy of Centromatic’s Scott Danborn) and harmonica. It’s followed by “{-+--+=}” -- not a typo, but rather what Stumptone has dubbed the album’s brief coda.

Maybe I was wrong earlier to make it sound as though Stumptone is carrying the banner for all their compadres from late ‘90s - ILOVEFTW.COM by Ken Shimamoto


Brilliant, beautiful, heartbreaking — that is Stumptone in a nutshell. The Fort Worth foursome’s follow-up to 1999’s self-titled debut is a wash of ambient, visceral rock delicate enough to cushion dreams and off-kilter enough to hasten nightmares. The group (Chris Plavidal, Peter Salisbury, Mike Throneberry and Frank Cervantez) describes their approach as striving to push the boundaries of psychedelic music. They’ve not only succeeded, but they’ve set the bar quite high for anyone who dares follow. - FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM by Preston Jones


Though Stumptone calls Fort Worth home, it's easy to pick up on their Denton heritage. One listen to their long-awaited Gravity Suddenly Released is all it takes to hear how perfectly they straddle the divide between the reeling psychedelia of Denton's space-rock yesteryear and the chicken-fried folkie roots music of today's Cowtown. They reach for the cosmos, yet somehow manage to keep one foot planted in the dirt.

This division is especially pronounced on the opening title track, which starts out with lazily strummed acoustic guitar and harmonica over a bit of slide guitar in the background. But the earthy instrumentation abruptly gives way to heavily distorted electric guitar, melodica and electronic noise. The following song, "Precipice," pulls a similar trick with quiet, ethereal vibes, acoustic and slide guitars and hushed, distant feedback that gradually intensifies until the drums suddenly kick in. Next, the nasty guitar lick and frantic drumming of "Halfforgotten" all but leap from the speakers until the song winds down to leave behind only the sound of short-wave radio chatter and cymbals.

The lyrics frequently refer to movement, whether that means travel, falling or, as in the title track, floating. The restless instrumentation suits this kinetic theme. As soon as you're accustomed to one sound, it is pushed aside by another. Throughout the album, overdriven organs, samples, sound effects and fuzzy, tremolo- and reverb-laden electric guitars interrupt—or get interrupted by—the terrestrial sounds of steel strings, trumpets and harmonica. Yet, as jarring as these sonic rocket-launches and crash landings can be, each one feels like exactly what the song needs right at that very moment. Gravity was a long time in the making, but this psychedelic masterpiece was worth the wait. - DALLAS OBSERVER by Jesse Hughey


Somewhere Syd Barrett and Skip Spence are smiling. - MAGNET by Fred Mills


The guitar parts can be fantastically interstellar. When this band soars they burst through the atmosphere and the ride is hard but fun. - AURAL INNOVATIONS No. 9 by Jerry Kranitz


...but the greatest part came 33 hours into the Wall of Sound Festival. I'd packed up my laptop and was ready to go home a tired old man when Fort Worth's Stumptone took the upstairs lounge stage. And I mean took it. Their 20 minutes of rock were over far too soon, as their mid-'90s space-rock sound was infused with urgent guitar lines that forced me to stop gazing at my shoes and look at the crowd instead. These were not passive, bored festivalgoers who'd been beaten down by an overlong schedule, and the room wasn't barren, either--it was packed full of head-bobbing music lovers. Wall Of Sound Festival needs some fine-tuning next year, but sets like Stumptone's were proof enough that the Wall...stood tall. - DALLAS OBSERVER by Sam Machkovech


Discography

Stumptone - Gravity Suddenly Released - LP 12"+CD

Stumptone - The Stumptone Tapes - EP CD

Stumptone - s/t - LP CD

Stumptone - Jeremy Bentham's Boots - Single 7"

Sample Tracks can be heard here:

Band Website
http://stumptone.com/14page.htm

Myspace Page
http://www.myspace.com/stumptone

DC9 at Night (Dallas Observer Blog)
http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/dc9/2008/04/bonus_mp3_stumptone_halfforgot.php

http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/dc9/2008/11/bonus_mp3_stumptone_pledge_of.php

Last Fm

Various online and analog radio stations

Photos

Bio

Stumptone has been through seemingly infinite incarnations. The band evolved from the blissfully inbred music scene that is Denton, Tx. The constant core of Stumptone pivots around the song writing of Chris Plavidal. There is a pattern behind it, a purpose beneath it all. A sincere wish to be truly meaningful to the people that will let it.

"...Meandering, echoing, exquisitely melodic but never predictable, Plavidal's sensibilities blithely step right off the indie rock ship and into Oz. He's a fantasist who loves the warm texture of acoustic guitars, a traditionalist who loves tweaked-out sound effects and new recording technologies. That he manages to balance these two conflicting camps has much to do with his sticking to very personal and connective themes. Travel, exploration, weather, organic transmutations--things that evolve and take you with them. This is delicate beautiful music often pushed to even more beautifully raw agitation, constant restlessness dosed with gentle goodwill."
-Christina Rees, Dallas Observer

“As you went to leave, gravity suddenly increased, tugging at your skin and bones and soul.
Lights went from red to green, and gravity suddenly released sending you head over heels...”

These are the opening lines of the long awaited release by Texas’ Stumptone. This is music
that both defies and celebrates gravity. Its feet planted firmly in the pastoral folk of Nick Drake,
while spouting the stems of later day sonic pioneers of Britain such as Spacemen 3 and Slowdive. Songs and sonics growing up and out...floating in their ultimate free will.

These are also songs that are the collected experience of an artisan work over time: Deep in a
knowledge of the past, with a nod to what might be the future, but without a hint of the
neo-plasticism that marks so much of modern music. This is music about life in all of its absurdity and absolutes. It takes the layers of experience gathered as memories acquired during aging,
and stacks them against one another like in a library, until the full expanse of their breath
can be realized.

“Breeze, hold me tight, illusion of movement can feel so right.”

Records have a feel all their own, and as you listen to this record, notice the use of percussion.
Never heavy-handed, always subdued, it is in itself at times the gravity of the record. A force so prominent it is unnoticeable. That is, until it is gone completely, and you are left hanging five feet above where you were standing, with only a pad of fuzz and tremolo beneath you. This is the breeze. Gently gliding from your left ear to the right. Soon enough though, the organic essence of Plavidal’s acoustic guitar comes in to be your way back to the soil of the ground, which at times can seem
like you just jumped off the moon and landed on your front porch in summer.

“Now you’ve got it all but it’s not going last. Pendulum swinging, singing, always comes back.
And one day you'll see that it's not just me on the rack.”

You see, this is not just a record about loss and gain, or the weight of circumstance and
predestination in our evolving choices. This is a record about how our lives our connected
to one another, even as we are alone. This is gravity. Captured on tape, and released back
into the air.

NOMINATED BEST ALBUM OF 2008 BY THE DALLAS OBSERVER AND THE FW WEEKLY. ALSO NOTED AS THE BEST ALBUM ART OF 2008 BY THE DALLAS OBSERVER.