Personnel: Frankie Sparo (vocals, guitar, midi, electric bass, percussion); Roger Tellier-Craig (guitar); Jessica Moss, Sophie Trudeau (violin); Jonah Fortune (trumpet, drums); Nadia Moss (piano, keyboards); Ian Ilavsky (drums); Will Eizlini (tabla).
Recording information: Hotel Z Tango (2001-2002).
First there was My Red Scare, a spare tangle of obscuro indie folk with Frankie Sparo's voice and guitar as its principal guides. Then there was Arena Hostile, which was like the squelchy HAM radio version of the same album, discovered late at night like a numbers station with heart. In 2003 Sparo combines elements of both records inside Welcome Crummy Mystics, an ambitious work recorded with the aid of fellow Montreal dweller and music crazy Efrim Menuck (Godspeed You Black Emperor!, etc.), as well as a gang of other collaborators. Though their approaches to songwriting are at odds, there's a valid comparison of Sparo and Mystics to Mirah and her striking 2001 effort Advisory Committee. That album found Phil Elvrum accentuating Mirah's music and mood with varying beds and warps of sound manipulation, and Menuck does the same thing for Sparo here. "Sleds to Moderne"'s brittle guitar work and halting vocal would make it a sort of acoustic Flying Saucer Attack, but with its bed of oh-so-subtle electronics and a well-placed aviary sample, the thing's got atmosphere to spare. "Akzidenz Grotesk" is a different animal, leaning toward the four-track pop assemblage of Guided by Voices, while "Bright Angel Park" shifts gears again, offering tonally atmospheric textures dueting with an eerie music box. "Camera"'s brooding vocal is as bare and arresting as anything Smog ever put to tape, and "City as Might Have Been" features Sparo's disjointed yet oddly evocative lyrics weaving between an urgent violin and subtle background harmonies. Fans of the Constellation label might be thrown by Welcome Crummy Mystics' lack of sonic weight, but it might be more rewarding for achieving the same claustrophobic mental torpor as those other bands in a considerably less busy form. Recommended for fans of anyone from Six Organs of Admittance to Come. ~ Johnny Loftus
The Wire (4/03, p.61) - "...Frankie Sparo's songs are all encompassing in their intimacy....Listening to the record is like dropping in on a private reverie..."p
Mojo (Publisher) (5/03, p.108) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...The form and tension owe as much to Nina Simone and Big Star's THIRD album. A mournful, exhilarating combination..."
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