“They all sound the same,” shouts a clown from the audience at the start of Year of the Horse, the 1997 double-CD live set that captures Neil Young’s tour with Crazy Horse in support of their Broken Arrow album. That tour, as evidenced by official and unofficial releases, found Neil and the Horse cranking up thud-thick chords, molasses-like rhythms and winding guitar solos to create a cacophony of zen—though not everyone, clown included, heard it as such.
“It’s all one song!” replies Neil Young. It’s a flippant retort, of course, but there’s much truth in it. Although there are nominal beginnings and ends, time shifts and instrument swapping throughout an album, concert and career, one song therein is but a part of a larger whole. They’re one stroke on a giant canvas.
The same heckled sentiment and wry response could well apply to Limestone Ritual by Doom Flower, a Chicago-based band that the Chicago Reader calls an “indie supergroup.” The band features Jess Price on guitar and vocals, Bobby Burg on bass, Matt Lemke on synths and Areif Sless-Kitain on drums, though Limestone Ritual features a breakbeat record in lieu of Sless-Kitain. He couldn’t make the sessions and, since postponing them was near impossible (Price was slated to hit the road as tour manager for the punk band Destroy Boys), the band turned to samples for its rhythmic needs. The result is that a moody trip-hop vibe radiates from the 12 tracks, which flow from one to the next as if sections of an eccentric orchestral work. Thus, at least to these ears, a track-by-track analysis is beside the point.
In some respects, Doom Flower remind me a bit of Horsegirl, but sans the optimism that comes with the young, and/or—digging into last century—David Roback’s precursor to Mazzy Star, Opal, which was accented by the hypnotic vocals of Kendra Smith. Like Smith (and her Mazzy Star replacement, Hope Sandoval, for that matter), Price’s laconic vocals unfurl oblique lyrics, while her guitar interlocks with Burg’s rumbling bass and Lemke’s droning synths to form a greater whole. The occasional jagged stitching and ragged seams don’t mean the music’s a fraying patch quilt, however; if anything, Limestone Ritual is akin to an impressionistic painting sprung to life on a large canvas. It’s intense, fanciful and mesmerizing, an artwork that reveals new layers with each listen.
The track list: