Albums based on repetition don’t usually sound this open, and so the most impressive thing about The Weird Weeds is their seemingly innate discipline. Working loosely within a rock format, the quartet (Nick Hennies on drums and percussion, guitarists Sandy Ewen and Aaron Russell, and Lindsey Verrill on upright bass) work closely with each other to slowly and methodically build up their tracks around gently repeated guitar melodies, measured percussion and Verrill’s delicate manipulation of the bass strings. As if in a graceful waltz, these insistent patterns are made to dance around one another, with every step closer happening on a liminal level, resulting in music that is familiar but askew, experimental but accessible.
On most tracks, The Weird Weeds seem to have drawn their inspiration, both musically and conceptually, from the nocturnal post-metal template bequeathed by the reformed Earth, with a similar sense of earthy, widescreen emptiness and a guitar sound that oscillates between clear as a mountain stream and gnarled growl. Meanwhile, Hennies’s plodding rhythm pulsation acts as a wide canvas, never forcing the beat, but instead opening up as much space as possible for the music to drift even as Ewen and Russell might be frowning over their fretboards. It’s a wonderfully understated and selfless way of approaching the drums, much akin to Crazy Horse’s Ralph Molina: Keep it simple and open, so as to allow the others to build on your foundations. With this skeletal backing, Verrill shines brightest, scraping or running her hands across the strings, creating a varied series of drones and screes that act as brittle counterpoints to her companions’ melodic creep. As the tracks (all unnamed) become busier, the repetitions drawn closer together and layered on top of one another, The Weird Weeds edge into denser territory than initially hinted at, with Tortoise now another clear reference point.
The ego-less aura that surrounds this album even extends to the album’s presentation: Self-titled and with no track names, it’s an exercise in restraint, in putting the music first. The drawback is that much of the music is equally restrained, occasionally lacking in real backbone. There are occasional suggestions that The Weird Weeds are set to channel Alvin Lucier or Duane Pitre’s monomaniacal takes on repetition, but usually they lapse back into a form of blissful-but-unassuming post-rock. The one true exception is the fifth track, where Verrill’s mauling of the bass is augmented by brittle electronics and a more robust take on guitars. It’s a beautifully cosmic flourish, stretching between jazz and minimalism, but, in truth, while there is much to adore and delight in across The Weird Weeds, this fifth track is the only moment their gradual build-ups see the quartet truly take flight.