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Gun Outfit - Dim Light

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Artist: Gun Outfit

Album: Dim Light

Label: Post Present Medium

Review date: Mar. 12, 2009

Gun Outfit sets a course straight through college-rock country, hitting every major signpost on the way from Sonic Youth to the Magnetic Fields to the Silver Jews. It makes a whole lot of sense; the Olympia-based group already has a working lo-fi model in K Records’ sizable cohort through the years. Dim Light, their first full-length, is a little bit of everything, as many parts Sebadoh as Dinosaur Jr., riffing off of Daydream Nation and Jamboree equally.

Through-lines are drawn through every major indie guitar sound of the past 30 years without contrivance. On the first listen, the upbeat pace and driving guitars on most of the songs are close enough to seem repetitive, but repeated listening reveals particular compositional elements unique to each. Listened straight through, it’s just a solid rock album, but broken down, the intention behind each song becomes clear.

“Cocaine Woman” starts out as just another atonal faster-than-mid-tempo post-punk song before the female vocals throw on the breaks. This process of speeding up, then slowing down, goes on for nearly two minutes, becoming sloppier and more heartbreaking with each pass, until finally breaking down into a heap of guitar feedback at the end. More than just proving their proficiency, Gun Outfit shows they can turn the ordinary into something memorable in the span of a few minutes.

And as good as the band can be at stretching out their influences over time, songs like “Troubles Like Mine” demonstrate that these kids can go vertical as well, creating deep layers of guitar that sneak up on each other. The opening notes ring out like a siren before settling into a mechanical groove that operates so smoothly it’s easy to miss the second and third accompaniments underneath. With the languorously back-and-forth vocals on top of it, the song becomes an intricate puzzle that is just as enjoyable when parsed out or taken as a sonorous whole.

It’s all part of Gun Outfit’s mastery of perspective. Compositionally, they know to keep it big and fast and gloomy, even while they’re working in delicate, fuzzed-out elements (“In the Dark,” “Your Will”) Historically, they understand where they fall in the hulking monolith of rock music, and have chosen to carve out a small but rich corner to continue excavating their own musical preferences. They’re a rock band that knows what they like, filling the entirety of Dim Light with hooks and flourishes that are familiar but refreshed. From the atonal, Mascis-like minor harmonies that open “Work Experience” to the proto-metal menace that closes out “Like It Is,” the band is nothing less than straightforward and confident in their style.

By Evan Hanlon

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