Apparently this, Gun Outfit’s fifth album is an “Orphic-Gnostic suicide drive towards the hallucinatory vanishing points of the Southwestern desert, debating the denouement of the decaying American dream.” I guess that’s one way to describe it, but that doesn’t really tell you just how easy it is for the sounds to seep into your subconscious and take you on a ride to a faraway place where your troubles and cares are nowhere to be seen. Gun Outfit have tone, their music is not slick in the traditional sense but it’s been honed and pared down to the elements required to the make a compelling musical journey.
The band is singer and guitarist Dylan Sharp alongside Carrie Keith who provides the same with drums, percussion and guitar served up by Dan Swire. Multi-instrumentalist Henry Barnes persuades instruments as diverse as bouzouki, dulcimer, fiddle and his ‘springocaster lap slide’ to do their bit on the 11 songs gathered on Out of Range. Which might make it sound like a busy production but much of it is beautifully elemental, usually there is voice, occasionally two, as many guitars and a rhythm section. No one is credited with bass but it’s usually in the mix alongside picked rather than strummed guitars in an open recording with a good sense of presence from voice and snare.
Gun Outfit’s sound owes something to Lambchop, Kurt Vile (on an up day) and even Lou Reed and as such sounds pretty unique. The opening number might start with guitar noise but that’s just a diversion, the real sound is a tight but loose amalgam of the instruments and Sharp’s languid but peppy voice. Ontological Intercourse is apparently a retelling of the Orpheus story, the most macabre version that ends in the poor lad’s head floating down the river, but unless you’re listening closely this might pass you by as you drift along oblivious to the massacre. The first song that stands out is Strange Insistence where the lines include “Cocaine will make you rich/LSD shows you divinity” and the truly poetic “The past is always there to take your bet”, this is the song that sums up the album but it wouldn’t work alone, the context provided by the surrounding numbers is all important.
The vibe is quite different when Keith takes the lead, her songs are more clearly driven and upbeat, this is most obvious on the single Sally Rose with its powerful bass line and ugly, squalling guitar. The banjo picking on The 101 is a lot nicer, this track breaks up the album like a palette cleanser rather than the chainsaw of Sally Rose, but both provide the same contrast.
Out of Range was recorded by Facundo Bermudez and mixed by Chris Cohen in Los Angeles during the 2016 presidential campaign, apparently the results were announced just before the track Cybele was cut, a song about the end of an empire, how apt. This is a good sounding album, not overly polished but clean and quiet most of the time, but it’s the tranquility it induces that makes it essential.