Kurt Vile’s ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’ Is Not Cinematic, It’s SONOMATIC!

Kurt Vile is not cinematic, he’s SONOMATIC. His music doesn’t suggest visuals, but rather draws you into yourself and sets you afloat on reflection clouds. I get it, it induces narcissism. External stimuli becomes extraneous; as guitars ripple and a stream-of-consciousness message trickles forth, ever so spaciously. This is a reverie inducing phenomenon, suddenly you find yourself stringing together missing links of your life, once thought forgotten.

There’s a healing grace to Smoke Ring For My Halo, a hypnotic affect, where dreamy acoustic guitars, with multiple overdubs, meet Triassic (Dinosaur Days) Time Signatures, such as Ghost Town, and peace returns to the center with private universals. This is my first Kurt Vile record, so I enter the sonic picture-book in midstream, but I do sense some crystallizing of development and style here – he’s planted his own garden.

kurt vile
Kurt Vile’s ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’, On Matador Records, is the best album I’ve heard so far this year (2011).

Baby’s Arms sounds like you’re under water, some spring brook in the Colorado Rockies, perchance. Guitars percolate, echo and twang in a flow and motion, like a bubble- machine or a lavender lava lamp, goes haywire in vertical Thunderball – action-packed commotion and joy-wonder bounce (as in a baby on your lap).

Meg Baird delivers the punch with backing vocals. I drift off. This Freudian back to the womb love ballad puts me in a trance; I return to Aaron Ralston’s predicament in 127 Hours. Lied when I said Vile aint cinematic, but it’s a flick in your mind, running uninterrupted and free as Lichtenstein.

Jesus Fever is about some unusual characteristics that time holds. That is, when you are in the present, the event of now is already over with. I’ve thought of this before. “If it wasn’t taped, you could escape this song, but I’m already gone.” In other words, something is already history, even if it’s happening in the here and now. See Philip K. Dick for insight into this cosmic time warp of a concept. Another way of thinking of this, is our time on earth is very short; we are ghosts before we can barely realize it. Chew on that!

Puppet To The Man almost gets Rockie! A paced 4/4 realization of limitations, with some awesome drumming by Mike Zanghi. Pounds you upside your head with some unforgiving boxing gloves of interdependency to a tyrannical dilemma, that tethers us all, irrespective of political or religious affiliations. Fundamental guitar hook (soaked in echo) wrapped ’round an age-old message gives it grit – a truism we’ll never escape!

In My Time is an early summer fantasy jangler; guitars are beautifully stacked (or stoked). Wish I had some new Bang Olufsen speakers to listen to this full mix on, but my headphones with a Creative MP3 player are workin’ okay. Leo Kottke comes to mind with KV. But don’t really fancy such vapid comparisons, I’m reading in the music press though. Kurt is his own man. That farfisa guitar lead is cool!

Ghost Town is drifty reverie and rambling sparkles of intuition or Lewis Carroll nonsense, where the dude in the song can transcend time, and float around like a ghost, even jumping the timeline 2,000 years back to the days of Jesus Christ. He goes out of his body periodically in the song.

There’s no rhythm, just pastoral splashes of reverb-drenched guitars, while resting on a comfortable couch. We’re in a soundscape rainstorm of introspection and soul-searchin,’ a fun drive. The modulation on the ‘ghost town’ line teleports you lickety-split, but you’re okay all the remainder of your day. (Afterthought) Raindrops on your head help clear your mind.

Smoke Ring is new and fresh. Kurt Vile is not a singer-songwriter. Kurt’s not folk either. Not a rocker. Not particularly American Music. Own thing. Homegrown studio stuff. Heard Lo Fi. Works. Likes to jam or record. I was that way too. Great songs. Sounds spontaneous, but upon more listens, well thought out. More like Claude Debussy than Bob Seger. Pop Impressionistic. Guitars, not orchestra. Metaphors, not poetry. Daydreams, not songs.