Awesome Wells—yes, that’s the band name Jonathan Palmer chose for his exercises in oddity—just released The Highs and Lows of De Witt A Stanton on January 26th, and already it leads the league in votes for this year's strangest album that deserves to be heard. That’s a mouthful but right on the money. The Highs and Lows by all accounts should sit on a shelf beside CDs of nature sounds insomniacs use to sleep, and yet, The Highs and Lows is an actual piece of art and subtly infectious. I’ve now found myself putting this record on repeat twice making it three listens straight, and I’m debating whether to make it four.
Jonathan Palmer went around with a microphone, it seems, recording just about anything and everything around him over in the UK. It’s quite likely some of the sounds and noises came from beyond the British borders too. In unskilled hands, the idea of splicing all this together would make, at best, a barely passable project for a high school music theory class. Palmer turns it into the next must-hear record.
The cliché “everything but the kitchen sink” proves true in this case as chanting, guitar, world music, traffic sounds, unintelligible conversation, and all manner of ambiance collect on twelve tracks. It should be pointed out that even though the album is well put together, as Eddie Thomas stated in his review, “maybe one-percent of the people who [hear] this [will] like it.” That’s a real shame because there’s talent on display here.
Each track finds its way by changing and morphing as it rambles along. For instance, “I Think Thanks-Giving Will Turn Kurt Cobain Around” starts with clapping and harmony but quickly turns a corner into accordion framed by - well, it’s impossible to explain the singing it’s framed by. It then resolves with the chimes of a bell and what is either a car alarm or the looped chirps of a bird. The song isn’t even two minutes long. Sounds weird, right? It is.
Recommending this album is necessary, but I’m hesitant to try and pick a demographic that will uniformly enjoy it since no demographic exists for such things. Listen at your own risk. Enjoy it at your leisure. Pass it along to like-minded individuals.