By Crystal Sherman
This one goes out to all those that want the right to survive. – Vile on “Puppet To The Man”.
Smoke Ring for My Halo, the fourth album from Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile, was released to reverent reviews from voices such as Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. It’s an aural massage. It’s a warm breeze with sparkly morphine-eyes behind dark sunglasses on a day that we have nowhere to be but where Kurt takes us.
Jeff Zeiger still gets engineering credits on Halo as on Vile’s first Matador release, Childish Prodigy, but the addition of John Agnello is probably the secret behind the atmosphere of the album. Agnello has worked with The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr., & Sonic Youth, and Halo takes on that thick atmosphere.
The whole album vibrates with a pleasing hum. The subdued guitars poke through a blanket of warm low-frequencies and the Lou Reed-y vocals saunter somewhere between the humid sonic layers. Compressed drum tracks teeter on the edge of muddy. Analog synths and Mellotron organs are subtly snuck somewhere in the mix. Lines of stream-of-conscience lyrics are followed by murmurs and mumbles.
I had to listen hard and sometimes I wanted more of everything but they kept it pulled back and layered in the mix, denying me what I wanted but not because they couldn’t provide it. You want more, more, more so you have to listen again. There is a perfectly masked, ever-present noise of a sine-wave lurking in the shadow that almost offends me, but I can’t get enough.
Cut down to 11 solid tracks, Halo displays a concentrated clarity that seems to be Vile’s culmination.
“Don’t know if you really came but I feel dumb in askin’,” Vile sings on “Runner Ups”. And then I have a vision of him lying in bed with the smoke that makes the ring that makes his halo. Answering him on the opening track “Baby’s Arms”, I say, “Kurt, we are your baby and you are in our arms.”
Mission Creek: Kurt Vile and the Violators, Brooks Strause and the Gory Details, The Lonelyhearts, & Paleo
Sunday April 3rd
The Mill | Doors at 7, Show at 8 | $6 advance, $8 day of show