Gun Outfit – Out of Range
- Fiona Shepherd
- 9 November 2017
Sprawling cosmic country from LA-based Americana outfit
Gun Outfit are a band birthed in the US indie mecca of Olympia in Washington State, but with their musical hearts in the desert, much closer to their adopted home of Los Angeles. They call their music 'western expanse' which is a neat epithet for their sprawling cosmic country sound, a cinematic marriage of American folk and psychedelic rock'n'roll jamming which has influenced their guitar-toting countrymen from Gram Parsons and The Velvet Underground right through to Yo La Tengo, My Morning Jacket and Silver Jews.
Their fifth album, Out of Range, features a faded family photograph of Monument Valley on the cover. Here, the rusty red sandstone-butted scene of many a John Ford western appears pale and hazy, an elusive American dream. This is not the only history/mythology invoked or referenced on the album, with songs also inspired by the Flemish artist Brueghel the Elder ('Landscape Painter'), Anatolian goddesses, 20th century playwrights and, for openers, Greek mythology.
Gun Outfit are the latest musicians to draw on the Orpheus myth. 'Ontological Intercourse' picks up the tale post-mortem when Orpheus's lyre continues to play following his beheading. It's one of the perkier numbers here, as related by Dylan Sharp in a characterful, clipped drawl reminiscent of Lambchop's Kurt Wagner.
His co-vocalist Carrie Keith fronts the wispy southern gothic folk reverie of 'The 101' and the mellow acid Americana of 'Three Words' with the same heavy-lidded sensuality as Mazzy Star, as well as delivering 'Background Deal', the most traditionally rootsy number on the album.
Their slow, sumptuous soundscapes are laced with banjo, dulcimer and hybrid instruments with Frankensteinian names, created by multi-instrumentalist Henry Barnes. Is that the fabled 'springocaster lapslide' creating the languorous country twang on 'Cybele'?
Occasionally, they up the pace to a rock'n'roll canter. The druggy catalogue of 'Strange Insistence' is set to a gentle but propulsive psych country backing. But whatever the tempo, Gun Outfit are no musical slouches. Closing number 'Second Decade' marks their ten year anniversary as a band with – what else? – Samuel Beckett references.
Out now on Paradise of Bachelors.