Primitive Smalls, Runnings premiere solo effort, occupies an "echelon" of it's own, with the comparative nuances to For Against arise in form, not so much function. Guitars are often preempted by keyboards here, but on a less tangible level the motifs will ring plenty familiar to FA connoisseurs. Runnings is equal parts cynicism and empathy, operating characteristically wry in both arenas. Melancholia and contemplation are watchwords on Primitives which isn't saying much given the track record of the man in question, but there's something more at play here. The aforementioned "Maze" is particularly revealing in it's adoption of synths - and a chilling schmear of them at that. "Premium" and "Outside Oslo" mine a similar tangent albeit a tad more subdued, and for what it's worth are what latter era New Order might have conjured had they not lost what was so great about them in the early '80s. There are more pearls to be plundered on Primitives, however as the album creeps to a close Runnings' lyrical muse does tend to dissipate. In the net-net of things, Primitive Smalls isn't a quantum leap from what he's attempted in the past, nor is it merely a lateral move. Despite his inherent pessimism, Jeff is a realist at heart, and on that note I like to think he's achieved a happy medium here.
Deardarkhead. Unlike most contingents in the Saint Marie stable, this trio isn't exactly oven fresh, as its first iteration had their antecedents back to the Bush-era (and I'm not referring to "W"). Minted in Atlantic City in 1988 Deaddarkhead originally had a microphone fiend in their lineup, one Michael Amper, who commandeered the band through a series of demos and short-form releases before taking a break in the mid '90s, and resurfacing with their first full length in 1998. Another hiatus ensued, but when DDH resumed in 2009, Amper opted to excuse himself. In a nutshell, they carried on sans vocalist and emerged with a new EP this year, Strange Weather. Guitar slinger Kevin Harrington sounds like he's lived in the distortion pedals of Marty Wilson Piper, Billy Duffy (The Cult) and John Ashton (Psych Furs) as he doles out spindles of echoing lines that arpeggio and recoil into heady, robust swirls that always manage to make a smooth descent back to Earth. "Juxta Mare" works the most magic for me, and though I'd be open for more variety on a DDH follow-up, Strange Weather's allure is downright invigorating.
All three of these albums are available NOW direct from Saint Marie in gorgeous shades of splattered vinyl, CD and digital, and if you'd like to get an earful before you buy, head over to Bandcamp for a nibble.