Saturday, January 14, 2017

The O-L West Afterthoughts & Show # 650

This episode of Revolution Rock started out as it normally would have. It was also supposed to be part two of a best of 2016 episode. However, while playing the first song by The O-L West, a collaboration of local Windsor artist Johnny West and Steven Oltean-Lepp, the fire alarm went off. In my twelve odd years doing Revolution Rock, I don’t believe a fire alarm has ever affected an episode (and for the record it was a false alarm. There was no fire and no one was hurt). Regardless, I put the album on repeat and me and my co-host exited the building. Almost all of Afterthoughts, the album by The O-L West was played on the program.

Afterthoughts was born out of what began as a solo outing by Steven Oltean-Lepp called Tire Swing Co. Johnny West produced the music and accompanied O-L musically on the albums. While Tire Swing Co. is a folk based project by Steven Oltean-Lepp, The O-L West combines the musical stylings of the prolific Johnny West and O-L for something that can be described as a dark alternative folk album. The songs take the textured style of Tire Swing Co. and go deeper. Several songs feature additional guest musicians, but the majority of this album is performed and written by O-L and West.

“Paint As You Like and Die Happy” starts off Afterthoughts setting a certain tone. With textured, deep vocals sung by Steven O-L, this song reflects on past memories from what seems to be pictures and an old letter. The title shows a desire to live as you want as the music features arpeggiated guitar, subtle basslines, and reverb drenched guitar that is halfway between country and surf. “UVB-76” emerges as track two on Afterthoughts, with dominant drums and Johnny West on lead vocals. The guitar and bass plunge below the drums and vocals on this track. UVB-76 is actually a shortwave radio station that broadcasts a short buzz tone. Its purpose has never been confirmed. Like the lyrics in this song, such as “Periodic waveform mysteries” and “Respect grows out of secrets/And so is built on nothing”, West combines the mysteries of this shortwave radio station with the tones of communication we all experience in our everyday life. This is something that is sometimes just as much a mystery as the UVB-76 shortwave radio station.

“Trespassing” is a more upbeat, but melancholic track. The song features vocals by Steven O-L with Johnny West backing/double and vocals by Natalie Westfall (Teenage Geese). With lyrics that compare a relationship that has seemingly ended to a property, this song is an effective and catchy addition to Afterthoughts. “West Coast Blues” is sung by Steven in his deep baritone voice. Lyrically it deals with the little complexities of a seemingly simple situation. This is a theme that pops up throughout this album, in different forms. Musically, the song plays on a folk/roots base with thick vocal harmonies in the choruses and melodies as piano trickles in and out of the song. The harmonica that drifts in on this track is reminiscent of something found on Neil Young’s Harvest. “Yuan Dynasty” is a song that travels quickly after “West Coast Blues”, which sounds as if lyrically it could be about the emotions that come with someone moving away. Featuring reverb drenched drums and guitar arpeggios, “Yuan Dynasty” is a song sung by Johnny West, that is about a character that was hidden. The character is revealed upon learning something about fourteenth century China, which in itself is a hidden history to some. The song is short, but compelling. As with many songs on Afterthoughts, there is a balance between the longer, more drawn out alt-folk material and the shorter material.

“Afterthought No. 4 (Waiting For Armageddon)“, is one of three separate “afterthought'” musical segments that appear on this album. This track bottles itself up with words and emotions that drift, as if spilt over. The song fades out before another track “Dying To Be Born”. Awash in a mixture of effects on a lap steel, guitar arpeggios and Johnny West’s voice, “Dying To Be Born” is not a song about the reverse aging disease in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Fortunately it is a tale about dealing with finding yourself. “Running Wild” is a piano driven dark folk coming of age tale, “Afterthought No.2 (Black Hole)” sucks you in with its floating melodies, as “Zebra Stripes” reveals something different. Featuring banjo, drums and dual vocals by Johnny West and Steven O-L, “Zebra Stripes” brings forward a character that finds an understanding and a deeper meaning from reminiscing about past memories. It is about a character that can't change, despite his mistakes.

“Pave Over It All” ends the album. Stretching out to over seven minutes, this track features four different vocalists. In addition to Johnny West and Steven O-L, Dave Dubois (The Locusts Have No King/Middle Sister), and Jim Meloche (Orphan Choir/Worry) join the song separately and all at once, coming together to tell a murder ballad story. The song centres on a different narrative point of view when sung by each singer. With lyrics such as “Billy walked with a limp and a bone tattoo”, “He was whiskey/He was shattered dreams/He was murder” and “Billy tired to cry/Not a sound came out of his dry crooked smile”, the vocalists of this song paint a picture that shows confusion, remorse, and how two crooked friends became this way. If that isn’t enough, this track also features violin/viola by Stu Kennedy and harmonica from “Mr. Chill” Kelly Hoppe. The combination of the harmonica, violin, words and music create an almost eerie cinematic feeling.

It’s strange that a fire alarm returned me to this album. I have played several tracks from this album when it was released near the end of 2016 on Revolution Rock, but by playing nearly all of the 15 tracks on the album, I went back and listened again, several times. I left the album to play and broadcast over the radio airwaves, ironically in an afterthought. However, when looking closer at the album and its contents, Afterthoughts reveals an album that is layered in stories, tales, musical textures and the questioning of what was stated in “UVB-76” as, many “Periodic shortwave mysteries”.

More info on this album and Johnny West can be found on Johnny West's website.

Saturday Night playlist:

1. The O-L West – West Coast Blues (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
2. The O-L West - The Yuan Dynasty (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
3. The O-L West - Dorsal Venous (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
4. The O-L West - Afterthought No. 4 (Waiting For Armageddon) (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
5. The O-L West - Dying To Be Born (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
6. The O-L West - Running Wild (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
7. The O-L West - Afterthought No. 2 (Black Hole) (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
8. The O-L West - Zebra Stripes (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
9. The O-L West - Pave Over It All (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
10. The O-L West - Paint As You Like And Die Happy (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
11. The O-L West - UVB-76 (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
12. The O-L West - Trespassing (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
13. The O-L West - Time Erodes (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
14. The O-L West - Another Turn (Afterthoughts - Tosteestosta Music - 2016)
15. Daniel Romano - I Had To Hide Your Poem In A Song (Mosey - New West Records - 2016)
16. Radiohead - The Numbers (A Moon Shaped Pool - X-Recordings - 2016)
17. Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds - La Arana (La Arana Es La Vida - In The Red Records - 2016)
18. Paul Jacobs - I'm Into What You're Into (I'm Into What You're Into - Danger Collective Records - 2016)
19. Tire Swing Co. - I'd Name You Aubrey (Time Away EP - Famous Last Records - 2015)
20. Tire Swing Co. - Time Away (Time Away EP - Famous Last Records - 2015)
21. Slow Down Molasses - Burnt Black Cars (Burnt Black Cars - Culvert Music - 2015)
22. Whitehorse - Devil's Got A Gun (The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss - Six Shooter Records - 2012)
23. United Steelworkers of Montreal - Tracie Dean (Kerosene & Coal - Weeweek Records - 2007)
24. Stompin' Tom Connors - Bridge Came Tumbling Down (My Stompin' Grounds - Boot Records - 1971)
25. Leonard Cohen - Lullaby (Old Ideas - Columbia Records - 2012)
26. Elliot Brood - Garden River (Mountain Meadows - Six Shooter Records - 2008)
27. Blue Rodeo - So Far Away (Small Miracles - Warner Music Canada - 2007)
28. Cowboy Junkies - Lay Me Down (Rarities, B-Sides and Slow, Sad Waltzes - Valley Entertainment - 1999)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for January 14.


Unknown said...

afterthoughts is a example of story telling at it's finest. the songs are rich time pieces and the song pave over it all is one of the best songs ever made.

Dave said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting John. And yes, "Pave Over It All" is a great track. Strong story telling in that one.