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Karl Blau - Dance Positive

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Artist: Karl Blau

Album: Dance Positive

Label: Marriage

Review date: Jun. 8, 2007

Karl Blau’s union with Marriage Records may not have been made in heaven, but at least it makes sense. Each seeks the democratization of music consumption by doing away with editorial filters. Marriage isn’t in the business of deciding whether the world needs a five-record box set of Thanksgiving outtakes; Blau wouldn’t want us to miss out on his rambles in the woods or practice sessions. Releasing these things is dorky and Pacific Northwestern, but entirely ignoring practical and economic considerations emanates joy.

Dance Positive was originally an installment of Blau’s handmade Kelp Lunacy subscription series and features his interpretations of 10 songs by D+ bandmate Bret Lunsford. Part of the pleasingly daft setup here is that Blau considers Lunsford’s songwriting underappreciated and seeks to popularize his oeuvre. (Never mind that as a member of Beat Happening, Lunsford is more famous than Blau, and that the two have already performed most of these songs with Calvin Johnston in D+.)

The D+ versions are better, but that’s not the point. D+’s Kermit-voiced barbershop trio and gold rush arrangements hide the flatness of Lunsford’s melodies. But Blau calls attention to the lyrics by pulling them like taffy. One-off phrases are mantras for him, and his anticlimactic, delayed fall into the words “deception pass, I’m sinking fast” makes them a revelation. Like Warn Defever and Little Wings, Blau experiments with common genres as a way to expand the possibilities of a single song. Here, there are flecks of the Caribbean, Edie Brickell, and the Grateful Dead. This magnification and the obsession it points to make moments blow up into eternity, a perspective given breath in Tom McCarthy’s recent novel Remainder.

Of late, we are endlessly lectured that art is a commercial enterprise. But at the edges, where money functions mostly as a placeholder, art seems once more like the glue that binds community.

By Josie Clowney

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