by Dan Vierck
photo by The Canopy Agency
Jeremiah Nelson named his dog after Bob Dylan. Influences aren’t nearly as direct when it comes to Nelson’s band, Patchwork - which released its new full length, “Take Me Down the Interstate” on August 15th at the Frequency in Madison, WI.
“You draw from enough sources that it becomes unrecognizable,” he says over a bagel and cream cheese while Zim, the black lab, explores the sunny porch of Nelson’s Williamson-area house. “A lot of the time it’s my friends,” he says. We talk about Oskosh fav Attack Octopus - who seemingly couldn’t be more dissimilar with its busy, sparkling, crackling, tangy arrangements, odd time signatures and overall challenging sound. In this context, Patchwork is definitely roaming Dylan-esque territory.
But Patchwork doesn’t have that grizzled, near arrogant wisdom MN’s Mr. Zimmerman has been pushing since pubescence. Instead, Nelson (who admits a tendency to over-write) squeezes all the layers he can into a song while keeping it smooth and easy, and letting his voice ride on top for the most part. The songs almost always pack the wallop - especially on muscle flexor, “Interstate Love Song II.” On others songs, the more low key they are, the more the voice tops them, but almost accidentally. It’s unique that its power is in its hesitance. When you listen for the voice, on almost every track it’s almost consciously resigned. This is a large part of “Take Me Down’s” overall atmosphere and sound.
With ten solid songs, the album has a consistency that someone might expect from a more mature, established artist. “I think writing daily is what it’s all about. Even if you write just total horse shit, just get it out,” Nelson says. Chiseled down from more than twice its number of songs, “Take Me Down’s” cohesion was no happenstance.
“It’s cool to do all these different arrangements of the tune. Some of the songs I’ve been playing for so long that I’d rearrange it on slide guitar. ‘Spaceships’ wasn’t written on slide but it translated really nicely. To throw all that stuff at the wall and see what sticks or doesn’t and just figure out what works and go with it. Sometimes songs just don’t work and they get axed. When you listen to it and the soul is there and you captured everything you want to in the tune, you can call it a day,” he says.
The songs are rambling more often than driving, and cautiously introspective in lieu of declarative soul searching. On the whole it’s approachable and as engaging as it is dense. Live, the songs are louder and hammered out between a standard four-piece set up. They pick the drive the album leaves out, which doesn’t destroy anything. Instead, it fits the scene. The songs are flexible enough that the album fits chillaxing at home or googling your work hours away. And even then at a rock club’s rock club like Madison’s The Annex, these songs could keep you grooving and attentive.
With a tentative ambition to release something every three months, and maybe change the band’s name to Scrabble Champs, Nelson takes the biz seriously and it shows on this release. This is his only gig, so he’s constantly touring. Check out myspace.com/patchworknoise for shows.
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