Cotton Tornado by Thee ConductorRelease date: October 20, 2017
Label: Sixgunlover Records
Thee Conductor is the alias of Austin, Texas musician Jason Butler, and if you’re expecting that Cotton Tornado, his debut album under the moniker, is chockfull of serious hip-hop beats, steer clear. This all too brief (mini) album that clocks under 25 minutes is on the other hand chock full of great melodies and intricate arrangements, that in some ways remind of Eureka and Indifference, the two Jim O’Rourke masterpieces that served as a book-binders the beginning of this century.
Butler obviously knows a lot of people, and these people really like what he’s doing – in the short time given to these songs he’s able to have a host of collaborations and ideas chipped in, from a great vocal duet with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy on the opening ‘Face Crinkle’ to great drum patterns by Kevin Shea from the modern jazz greats Mostly Other People Do The Killing. But what is particularly impressive is that the songs are carefully thought out and wrapped in quite brilliant arrangements, particularly for brass (‘Face Crinkle, ‘Tin Tiny Man’, the title song). This includes the three seemingly throw-away ambient tunes, the instrumental ’92BPM’ and the vocal ’ASMR’ and ‘La Quebecoise Aux Cheveux Bleus’.
Along with the Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy tune, the other two guest vocals tracks ‘Oh, The Raven’ and ‘Listening To Your Evening’ are among the highlights on the album. While ‘Oh, The Raven’ with gentle female vocals and plucked guitar with just a few extra touches, and ends up with a subdued string arrangement, ‘Listening To Your Evening’ comes up with a great baritone male vocals (sounding awfully close to Bill Callaghan) and another brilliant brass arrangement.
Personal favorite though, coming midway through the album (even though it is a bit hard to single it out), is ‘Ditty #8’ that out of nowhere jumps into the Alex Chilton/Chris Bell Big Star territory only to turn into an acoustic guitar number with hummed harmony vocals. Quite brilliant.
So, although Cotton Tornado is achingly brief, it certainly is no cotton candy – there is quite a substance there when you bite into it.