Andre Costello says The Slant prides itself as being somewhat "out of the loop," and yet, talking about its influences the Pittsburgh band references such "in the loop" indie bands as Animal Collective and Akron/Family.
That indie-rock sensibility combined with backwoods roots and classic rock influences makes its second album, "Old North," a richly textured journey filled with surprising twists -- or perhaps slants -- ranging all the way from Southern Gothic folk to chamber pop to a trance instrumental. Think Dylan in the basement with the Band, with Radiohead dropping by.
The offbeat instrumentation is part of the adventure, as the album lists the basic guitars, bass and drums, but also adds banjo, vibraphone, bowed tam tam, desks, suitcases, drawers, didgeridoo, pages fluttering, TV static, forks and hammering of nails in wood, among others.
- Where: CD release party at Club Cafe, South Side.
- When: 7 tonight.
- Tickets: $5
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"Our background growing up in rural Pennsylvania has given us a unique outlook on what is traditional instrumentation," says Costello. "None of us feel very happy with the majority of popular and readily accessible music today, so by adding non-traditional instruments in our lineup, we're attempting to vary what we do as compared to what's happening in the mainstream world. This idea has a lot to do with our band name, adding a new spin on an old idea. I feel we all pride ourselves in being 'out of the loop.' In addition, the music our parents listened to has certainly played into what has influenced us as musicians on a whole."
Three of the members -- Brad Austin, Mark Zedonek and Zach Dow -- hail from Coudersport, Potter County, where they started playing music in early high school. Costello, from Ellwood City and a group called The Rubber Band, filled out the quartet in 2006 and they recorded their first album "Animanatomy."
Despite its stylistic leaps, "Old North" feels like one flowing piece, held together by its earthy and rollicking spirit. They sing of circus big tops, flowers and trees, a battle with a bear, a coffin maker's son, the Civil War and a girl named Suzy Lee.
"It's not a concept album," Costello says, "but there is a thematic center around how the different characters that arise in the songs [and on the album cover] interact. There is a definite story that can be considered throughout the album as some of the characters are in more than one song and the songs deal with related subject matter. In general, we don't see it as a concept album, but found that it was interesting to have related material between songs instead of completely disconnected tracks. This is also the reason for having it split up into two parts."
On the CD, they are designated as "The Old" and "The North," beginning with the sound of a needle dropping on a vinyl record. There's even a middle break after the title track indicating where the record would have to be flipped.
"The first half has some older sounds we often find ourselves using while the second half is more progressive compared to what we usually do," Costello says. "It seems to flow well from beginning to end, but we wanted to specifically draw attention to the differences."
When it comes to telling their friends, relatives, media or a potential record company suitor what they do, it's not the easiest task.
"We don't really think of ourselves as indie-rock," Costello says, "but it definitely seems to be a part of our sound. None of us have a great deal of indie-rock influence but the folk sound we end up getting naturally hints at a distant indie-rock sound. We prefer the sound of straight folk or completely warped folk because it's the only honest music out there anymore. The beauty of folk music is that no matter what gets worked into a song, the basis is always heartfelt and great on its own."
Scott Mervis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2576.