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Scott_Williams on 05/20/2009 at 08:50AM

Strange Maine: Big Blood

Big Blood portrait by Colleen Kinsella

This post originally appeared on WFMU's "Beware of The Blog". The Free Music Archive now hosts nine full albums by this most excellent band.

A good sign that a band is in the full embrace of creative possession is revealed in its choice and handling of cover material.  The "phantom 4-piece" Big Blood boldly and beautifully tackles a Sumatran pop song from the indomitable Sublime Frequencies series of musical Asian mysteries; and their take on Can's "Vitamin C" is completely revealing not just of Big Blood, but of Can.  And they do it with acoustic instruments.  Hearing it is truly like hearing Can with somebody else's ears, and it is fucking thrilling. 

Big Blood is clearly in full thrall to whatever demon god of creativity squirrels around under the dirt up there in South Portland, Maine among the loons and the decrepit oil tanks. Rhythmically hypnotic, with a lot of melody and instrumental density; broadly considered a "psych-folk" band (fair enough), it's fair to imagine that Big Blood have actually tripped over some long-hidden threads of indigenous Americana to discover a trove of musical and folkloric delights that somehow fossilized and disappeared, centuries ago.  It sounds so "Evil Dead", doesn't it?  It can be -- but it can also be intensely and heartbreakingly warm and moving.  Now would be a good time to watch this video; if watching it doesn't make you want to watch it again, and then perhaps even again, then skedaddle. You and I will agree to disagree.

That's "Oh Country", performed by Big Blood with their pal Kelly Nesbitt, live on the Pipeline local live music radio show on WMBR out of Cambridge MA. Lots more Pipeline vids here; download a podcast of the entire 40 minute Big Blood set via iTunes, or here.

Continue reading to get their story, and treats.

Bigblood_2 Big Blood evolved from Cerberus Shoal, the prolific Maine collective of large-ensemble art rock weirdos.  Concerning Maine, CS founder Caleb Mulkerin says "We all have access to the same raw materials in this day & age, but it's sure nice to be allowed the space to stay focused on what it is you would like to accomplish."  (oh new york, up yours! --ed.)

Cerberus Shoal did a series of collaborations with others, including Herman Dune and The Magic Carpathians Project.  Their collab w/ Alan Bishop called "The Vim & Vigour of Alvarius B and Cerberus Shoal" is one of my fave recordings ever.  To my ears, Cerberus Shoal's secret weapon is / was multi-instrumentalist / singer Colleen Kinsella.  Colleen's a trained an untrained-but-got-her-start-in-a-4th-grade-production-of-Music-Man singer who often tends toward a distant, laconic and very dry delivery, but other times she favors a sarcastic banshee mode, which oddly has the effect of being empathetic.  At times there's a little bit of that Joanna Newsome / Coco Rosie thing, if they took the pacifiers out of their mouths.  Also, she digs Creedence.

Colleen and Caleb had a baby together, effectively putting Cerberus Shoal on hiatus, and Big Blood became their outlet for musical, artistic and familial activities.  In the past 2 years, they've released 9 full-length CDRs, each one reflecting the set list from a live show they've played.  Each CD is unique, and none shows even a glimmer of rot, predictability, or filler.  Additionally, they've released solo stuff (check the Asian Mae CDR! - you can download it here) and CDs by friends (Garm is the dude from Visitations), and formed a band with their housemates called Fire on Fire, whose CD is available on Michael Gira's Young God label.

"An intimately willing team walking blind through each other's songs presenting one of a kind recordings tailor-made to the night's performance."

Filling out the foursome are Asian Mae and Rose Philistine, alter egos to express the alter impulses of Colleen and Caleb, respectively.  For the release "Strange Maine 11.04.06", a set that validates all that "Evil Dead" talk above, these phantoms come to the fore.  Listen to "A Quiet Lousy Roar".

When pressed to compare Big Blood to others, I sense conceptual ties to the broadway paganism of the UK - your Wicker Mans and your Comuses (both of whom own my immortal soul, by the way).  On the American side, there's the Art of Flying / Lords of Howling camp out of New Mexico, exploring the same sort of freedom-thru-isolation questions.  Of course, you can't miss the impact of their avowed king of all bands Sun City Girls; otherwise, there's surface similarities to bands like Danielson, the Family of Apostolic, Donovan, Brigitte Fontaine, Faun Fables, Aphrodite's Child, and others.

We keep hoping for a Big Blood visit to WFMU.  Meanwhile, we've got an awfully nice, and growing, stash of strange, thanks to our generous and prolific friends, Big Blood; which, incidentally, falls for a thousand thousand years.  Just sayin'.

Big Blood's FMA artist page, with scores of high quality mp3 downloads

Big Blood on the interwebs:

Big Blood Blog  /  Big Blood on myspace  /  Big Blood interview #1; interview #2  /  Hear Big Blood on WFMU

How to buy Big Blood:

Thanks to Caleb and Colleen for their enthusiastic cooperation, and for the mp3s; and Mike Lupica.

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