Oxbow – “Thin Black Duke” – [Hydra Head Records]
“Thin Black Duke” is Oxbow’s 7th album in 30+ years and their first release in 10 years. It is a stunner. Like the bands Swans, The Fall, Psychic TV, and Half Japanese, Oxbow is in the category of having survived longer than possibly initially thought and yet still creating new sounds. They are not in the retro circuit. With age hopefully comes maturity in one’s art. Such is the case here. Eight songs of dense musical interactions with lyrical depth. Is this a song cycle? Is this Oxbow’s stadium rock album? If only stadium rock was like this. Track one starts out with a whistle then falls into a symphonic cacophony before the toe tapping song takes over. This sets the stage. Bassist Dan Adams, drummer Greg Davis, singer Eugene S. Robinson, and guitarist Niko Wenner work so well on these tales of observation of sadness, difficulty, challenge…..life. Song structures change mid song, going from symphonic to almost noise. Layered guitar drum and bass with piano embrace Robinson’s distinctive voice and vocalizations, interpreting the cinematic lyrics with growls, howls, whispers, purrs, hisses …. haunting and always keeping the listener on their toes. Musical themes run through the works, like leitmotifs. Multiple listenings are needed to gain interpretation. This is a work for contemplation. Enjoy.