13 Songs, 56 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

After the alt.storybook rise of “outsider artist” Willis Earl Beal—with his no-fi release Acousmatic Sorcery and its rudimentary approach to life and music—it was inevitable that there's be a second act, perhaps including a professional studio. Yet Nobody Knows. is hardly a hi-fi affair. Sure, beats get a little slicker in spots. “Coming Through,” with Chan Marshall adding ghostly whispers and vocals, includes musical backing that sounds like a primitive garage-soul band adding a legitimate R&B groove, but the Tom Waits–like rawness of the gospel-blues-sex shouter “Too Dry to Cry” isn’t much removed from a few songs on the debut. A heavy, dark reverb adds a sense of menace to the strangely orchestrated “What’s the Deal?” A piano ballad like “Blue Escape” sounds like a man sitting at the back of an empty barroom singing for his own entertainment and spiritual release. It's quite excellent if you appreciate such odd-fi happenings.

EDITORS’ NOTES

After the alt.storybook rise of “outsider artist” Willis Earl Beal—with his no-fi release Acousmatic Sorcery and its rudimentary approach to life and music—it was inevitable that there's be a second act, perhaps including a professional studio. Yet Nobody Knows. is hardly a hi-fi affair. Sure, beats get a little slicker in spots. “Coming Through,” with Chan Marshall adding ghostly whispers and vocals, includes musical backing that sounds like a primitive garage-soul band adding a legitimate R&B groove, but the Tom Waits–like rawness of the gospel-blues-sex shouter “Too Dry to Cry” isn’t much removed from a few songs on the debut. A heavy, dark reverb adds a sense of menace to the strangely orchestrated “What’s the Deal?” A piano ballad like “Blue Escape” sounds like a man sitting at the back of an empty barroom singing for his own entertainment and spiritual release. It's quite excellent if you appreciate such odd-fi happenings.

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