David Grubbs is one of the most influential musicians of his generation: a legacy that includes such bands as Squirrel Bait, Bastro and Gastr del Sol. Moving eccentrically forward from the straight-ahead hardcore punk of Squirrel Bait (after all, he was a wizened eighteen years old when SB called it a day) David increasingly infused his songcraft with an experimental strain, culminating in the discography of Gastr del Sol, who drew widespread interest with the ways in which they combined so-called “songs” with experimental music. Participating in the reinvigorated Red Krayola during this time exposed David to the formative tutelage of Mayo Thompson as well. But after the gradually more streamlined Gastr period concluded with Camoufleur, David’s output became more segregated; the albums of pop songs were more focusedly, more cussedly pop, and the more experimental projects (including duo recordings with Mats Gustafsson, Nikos Veliotis, and Loren Connors, not to mention the entire catalog of his Blue Chopsticks label) became more unrelenting.
Flash forward to April 2013: Drag City releases the sixth and latest David Grubbs album of songs, The Plain Where the Palace Stood, which finds David once again twining together the diverse strands of his vast interests. As in the days of Gastr del Sol, songs float in idiosyncratic yet exceptionally unhurried arrangements. The Plain Where the Palace Stood features vocals on just four of the eleven tracks, yet the album as whole flows—breathes—effortlessly alongside the most critically acclaimed releases of his great catalog, not to mention his contemporaries and kindred artists – Oren Ambarchi, Scott Walker, Talk Talk, and Sunn O))).
This is a process begun on David’s previous pop album, An Optimist Notes the Dusk, nearly four years previous. Despite the fluid activity of collaborations, many of which have been released in the time since (and several others coming to fruition this year), patience, meditation and time were required to afford the depth and detail to The Plain Where The Palace Stood. The effect is both striking and tangible; the glass partition which all too often separates genre-spanning rock and academic experimentation shatters under Grubbs’s langourously insistent, idiosyncratic, immediately recognizable songs and arrangements. It’s 2013 and this is David Grubbs: Punkademic Godfather.