There is a hyper-obscure element that has been unleashed upon the musical landscape by the internet. It’s not often commented upon because by nature, the hyper-obscure is either ignored or it’s totally embraced, and the two groups involved—the many who ignore it, the few who embrace it—never much talk to each other. By hyper-obscure I mean music that is so far down its own hole musically or lyrically (or both) that it doesn’t begin to try to explain itself to an outsider. Pre-internet record labels, whether major or independent, were rarely in the business of releasing the hyper-obscure, if only because such projects never look to be brisk sellers. Now that a) traditional gatekeepers are no longer needed to produce and distribute music, and b) musicians aren’t even necessarily trying to sell anything, the ground is fertile for the hyper-obscure. To which I say: yikes.
On the one hand, I admire musicians so committed to their own visions that they just create this stuff, independent of efforts to explain themselves. On the other hand, far too often, either the music or the lyrics (or both) frustrate any outside effort to approach it. Which is a nice way of saying this stuff is typically unlistenable. The payoff can be big—look to the (pre-MP3) brilliance of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea for a powerful example. But, I fear, most musicians drawn down that path are not quite so brilliant.
I don’t equate “The Party” to Aeroplane (although NMH fans will hear some resonance here), but its squeaky bouncy clattery presence, full of lo-fi momentum and noise, combines with a melodic through-line that proves irresistible to me. So irresistible, in fact, that I ignored/didn’t hear lyrics such as “There’s someone at the party getting everyone pregnant/Then mutating his shape and being impregnated.” “The Party,” it turns out, is from a concept album called Home Church Road, which, according to press material, tells “the epic story of a future Earth after human extinction.” We are urged to listen to it in its entirety but here’s an abiding conundrum of hyper-obscure music: it requires a commitment of time and attention prior to the musician having proved him- or herself worthy of said time and attention. Front man and Folklore mastermind Jimmy Hughes—more well-known as a member of the Elephant 6-rooted Athens band Elf Power—has a fertile imagination to be sure, but so do a lot of us. I’m more sold on his musical muscle than his storytelling but I will admit I have yet to listen to the album straight through. That’s another conundrum of the age: all of this music unleashed upon us and still (last I checked) only 24 hours in a day.
This song, however, is definitely worth three minutes or so of your time. Home Church Road was released in June on Single Girl Married Girl Records. Folklore, by the way, while born in Athens, has become a Philadelphia-based “mini-orchestra,” with seven joining Hughes in its northern iteration, and six others still on the roster down in Georgia.