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Less an Introduction, more a get-together with old friends. This gold is soaked red with the blood of the Krayola...and maybe a few others. The Red Gold EP, which is really more of a mini-album than an extended-play single per se, is the second Red Krayola release this year — an accomplishment that is no mean feat in and of itself.
Throughout the band's 40-year history and ever-changing lineup, the only constant is longstanding singer/songwriter Mayo Thompson, whose gruff, southern-fried vocal delivery is a Red Krayola trademark. Currently, the group's lineup includes Tortoise drummer/post-rock producer extraordinaire John McIntyre, and the structure of the Red Gold EP, even more so than on Introduction, demonstrates the band's evolution into an unambiguously avant-garde indie rock powerhouse. Unlike Introduction's inclination
toward succinct pop structure, Red Gold favors the instrumental side of the band, with Thompson's vocals being significantly downplayed (half of the record's six songs are instrumentals). However, it's not exactly to the detriment of the recording that Thompson's vocals and most notably lyrics play second fiddle to the instrumental pieces. On Red Gold, each of Thompson's three vocal tracks feature oddly half-formed, stream-of-consciousness lyrics (which are sometimes frustratingly simplistic to the point of cringe-worthiness) that almost sound as if they were improvised off the cuff. Furthermore, Thompson's lazy, heavily inflected Texas drawl seems jarringly out of place, juxtaposed as it is against the music, which bears the heady influence of European cabaret music and chamber jazz, replete with curious instrumentation such as accordion, harpsichord, shuffling jazz beats, and the like.
The Red Gold EP is better considered as a somewhat more inventive, if not slightly schizophrenic, companion piece to Introduction. The EP is indeed connected to that album via the brooding, almost gothic "Easy Street," which is an instrumental version (however unrecognizable it may be from the original) of Introduction's "Greasy Street." It's probably a safe bet to say that any Red Krayola release is diverse and unconventional enough to at least warrant a listen, and this is certainly the case with Red Gold. In its own way, it's more interesting than its predecessor, and to be fair the musicianship is captivatingly bizarre. Considering the infrequency and relative fastidiousness with which The Red Krayola record music, however, it's baffling that Mayo Thompson opted to issue such a brief and fractured release, rather than fleshing out these admittedly idiosyncratic tracks. On the whole, the Red Gold EP is a curiosity that, while highly uneven, is worth seeking out if for no other reason than its sheer eccentricity.