There’s nothing false about Geordie Austen; I’ve been a fan of his deep, risky, soul-baring oeuvre for over 20 years now (and I can hear him mocking “oeuvre” even as I type this). Geordie’s new album False Contours dropped today and I had the privilege of giving it a preview listen.
It was a thrill catching up with Geordie’s music after a gap of many years, and to see where he’s at right now. To say how he’s “grown and changed” would convey the wrong idea since he was communicating from such a highly evolved place when I was first introduced to his music back around the turn of the century. Let us say instead that he’s chosen a direction. There was always a lot of jazz in his compositions, ambitious ideas well above my schooling, though I could always HEAR the intricacy, which was abetted by a soulful voice that always reminded me somewhat of Stevie Wonder’s. At present, though, he’s in an acoustic, natural place (see the cover art above) which surprised me not a little. I never suspected he’d ever be tempted in this direction, and while it is above all coming from a folk, or antifolk, place, with ancient, crazy sounds of misery such as might issue from a cabin or cave, he’s lost none of the ambition or the complexity, and maybe’s he even gained some as far as the lyrics go. (Though it may be that I’m listening better, due to the starkness of the arrangements). What’s interesting to me is that his jazz chops have allowed him to go far enough in his journey to come out the other side (like curved space) to the raw chaos you get in untutored geniuses like Robert Johnson.. Austen jumps off the high dive many a time with a vocal trick or a guitar passage in ways that make you gasp, and goes to weird, unexpected, dissonant places melodically and chordally, sufficient to keep you on your toes the whole time.
By the way, it is HIGHLY unusual for me to talk about the musical side of things over the lyrical content, which is indicative of how it impressed me. But in the end, this is a collection of songs — haunting, cosmic, melancholy, lonely and honest. That side of things will take many more hearings for me to absorb. And these songs are like moonshine — maybe too intense a recipe to drink the whole jug at one sitting, ‘lessin’ you wanna get a serious drunk on. But hear it you should. It’s available here.