TRIPLE BURNER REVIEWS
The Globe and Mail
Tiny Mix Tapes
REVIEWS IN OTHER LANGUAGES (LINKS)
Having spent the past year in Montreal, I've gotten to discover a number of excellent new bands hitting the scene. One of the most intriguing is Triple Burner, a collaboration between instrumental folk stalwart Harris Newman and GY!BE member Bruce Cawdron. Their two recent shows in Montreal (live reviews of both are on Indieville) garnered a decent amount of buzz, and excitement for this new album - available in June - is pretty high.
Interested parties: you will not be let down. This well-recorded, beautifully packaged album is filled to the brim with rolling, engaging instrumental folk. It takes the fingerpicking folk style of Newman (whose work is predictably very influenced by that oft-mentioned wonder John Fahey) and crosses it with a more rock-based approach somewhat in line with Pell Mell. After a minute of ambience entitled "Kelvin Says," this disc kicks right into gear with "The Wherewithal," a duo for guitar and bowed glockenspiel that features some truly full-bodied guitar plucking. Excellent melodic themes throughout prevent the track from ever approaching tedium. "Roundabout" brings percussion into the mix, which is where Triple Burner finds its true groove - the rhythmic drums and textured cymbals add momentum to Newman's flawless guitarwork. This theme continues throughout, reaching a pinnacle with "The Pulse of Parc Ex," a fourteen minute epic built on a gradually evolving guitar melody. Such a long composition would seem vulnerable to becoming boring, but such is never the case here - the tension and the rises and falls in the music are consistently enjoyable, producing a dreamy atmosphere like nothing else. The closing track ends somewhat strangely - just a fadeout from a repeating guitar part - but such is the nature of such a loosely flowing (yet still cohesive) record. Triple Burner have put together a fine record here; I dare say this is among the finest GY!BE offshoot projects, though the Godspeed connection is made practically trivial by the album's uniqueness. Highly recommended.
— Matt Shimmer
Triple Burner is guitarist Harris Newman who’s earlier release (which was reviewed on the next page) had alreadydone several tracks in cooperation with Bruce Cawdron –who, on that album was much more like a sound texture sculptor-. Here Bruce shows especially something similar on the beautiful "Kelvin Says". On this track, these textures, with slide guitars, recall echoes of lost sounds from deserts. Mostly however Bruce Cawdron plays rhythmic percussion based upon the melodic and rhythmical fingerpicking of Harris Newman, in a rather obvious, but still nice way, following the rhythmic trails of the guitar pickings (like on “Bride of Bad Attitude” and “Wall Socket Protector”). The album is very moody but sounds pretty minimal and an instant improvisation to be as convincing in a similar way as the solo debut from Harris Newman. I guess the album gives very much an idea of what to expect in a concert of the duo. It is a fine and memorable concert, which is enjoyable to hear again. The last track, "Regresso" recalls the Beatles melody from "come inside you". For me it is along with the nice triple tracks the album started with, another favourite moment on the album. The CD has a hand printed carton sleeve.
- Gerald Van Waes
Harris Newman is one of the most diverse guitarists to emerge in the last 10 years and Bruce Cawdron is most notably known as the drummer for Godspeed You Black Emperor. Together they've both played as Esmerine with Beckie Foon of Silver Mt. Zion, and without her, the duo has released their first album as Triple Burner.
Their debut album sounds more like one continuous performance: like a concert in various movements. It starts quiet—very, very quiet—and from the first real full song, "The Wherewithal," it seems as if this duo is going to head down a more languid Esmerine-like path: with Cawdron bowing the marimba to the serene notes of Newman's guitar. Things are still calm by the start of "Roundabout" but they build in volume, intensity, and pace, with Cawdron fully engaged in the hand and malleted percussion. By the song's end the duo are blazing at a lightning pace, and the energy is maintained more or less throughout the rest of the disc.
I don't know if Bruce is playing the plastic spoons at the beginning of "Bride of Bad Attitude" but this song is a distinct turning point in styles for Harris. Whereas before the guitar playing was more in line with the sort of new folk sounds coming out of people's guitars like James Blackshaw or Ben Chasny, "Bride" looks south of the Mason-Dixon line, with a Kentucky Bluegrass tinge, and by the next song, "Wall Socket Protector," the train-like snare drumming from Cawdron matches the piercing slide guitar in a very Mississippi Blues manner.
Although the serenity returns for the most of the nearly 14 minute "The Pulse of Parc Ex," it sounds as if Bruce has built his drum set up, piece by piece, with either cymbals or cymbal-sound producers (you can never tell with this guy). The song naturally progresses between the quiet and more moderately paced playing, never quite getting out of hand, leading naturally into the closer "Regresso," which echoes "Wall Socket Protector" with a much more complete drumset in the hands of Bruce.
Newman and Cawdron are excellent players but they clearly work well for each other: Newman's playing is fantastic but a guitarist needs something more to make the sound a little more full without becoming a complete distraction. With the flood of new folksters it's becoming hard to keep up but thankfully Newman doesn't look like he's planning on getting lost in the shuffle. It's a perfect time now to catch up with Esmerine and Newman's solo releases (see Strange Attractors) and those lucky enough to live in the Northeast US and Canada can catch them on the road in the next few weeks.
- Jon Whitney
For an audience born and raised on lyrics (no matter how banal they may be), instrumental albums have an inherent disadvantage. They, in the sheer quality and intrigue of their music alone, must attempt to accomplish what a singer and his band can do together -- that is, pull listeners in and keep them there. This is the challenge that avant-garde folk duo Triple Burner face in their self-titled debut, and one that they do a surprisingly good job of overcoming. It's only guitar and drums (plus the very occasional bowed glockenspiel), but it still moves along quickly. Harris Newman's fingerpicked effected acoustic guitar is hypnotic and warm as it circles through Eastern- and Western-inspired arpeggios, pausing to focus on certain patterns or ideas before continuing on to something else. He pushes and pulls the strings to tell the stories of solitary travelers, walking across the dusty ground with cowboy hats or turbans, crouching at campfires with strangers and looking into the great expanse as the snare echoes around them. And it is the drums, actually, that keep Triple Burner from fading into the realm of background music. Bruce Cawdron stays on the front edge of the beat, urging it forward with subtle desperation, coyly playing with the rhythms of Newman's guitars, forcing him to make things interesting. Even the nearly 14-minute-long "The Pulse of Parc Ex" stays relatively fresh because of the percussive variation. Unfortunately, without the aid of vocals the songs begin to sound very much the same, and the fact that each one consists of long, repeating parts doesn't help in distinguishing them from one another. Triple Burner haven't perfected the instrumental album -- everything is still far too much the same -- but they've definitely distanced themselves from other, lesser artists who might only find themselves as mood-enhancing department-store music or not even played at all. It may be repetitive; it's certainly not boring.
- Marisa Brown
Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, because I’ve been singing the praises of Triple Burner for the last six months- to anyone who will listen, in retrospect. It goes without saying that my anticipation was grandiose for the duo’s debut release. This is creepy rhythmic avant-folk of the highest order; music that breathes dusty air and swallows from the murky waters, in equal doses.
Triple Burner is talented Montreal guitarist Harris Newman and former Godspeed You! Black Emperor percussionist Bruce Cawdron- a simple combo that manages to illustrate a variety of emotions and imagery from the palette of acoustic-based music. Newman provides the melodic circular patterns, which evokes contemplation on the psychedelic horizons- from the swampy blues of “Wall socket protector”, to the minimal prophecy of innovator John Fahey, clearly showcased in the shimmering meditative passages of “Roundabout”, or even the slow-building tension of “Regresso”. Cawdron, meanwhile, serves as the nervous strain behind the conflicted elements. Occasionally utilizing the glockenspiel, his backbone elevates the rhythm with a Motorik sense of drama, especially on the electromotive “Bride of bad attitude”.
There is one constant throughout the seven songs on Triple Burner- the songs seem to cast hypnotic spells which never loses its stranglehold on the known/unknown. Its instrumental tales seem to warn the listener of impending urgency, a form of organic immediacy which administers a sense of disquieting comfort. This is a work of undeniable beauty and wonder, and an album that transcends the traditions of the folk movement.
- Jay Jay Erickson
As if he weren't busy enough running a production studio for mastering records and releasing solo albums, Harris Newman has now teamed with Bruce Cawdron (who also plays in the group Esmerine along with Newman) for an excellent release under the name Triple Burner. Here, Cawdron plays everything from random percussion to drums and glockenspiel, while Newman handles all guitar duties.
Even on first listen, it's obvious that the two are very talented musicians who play off one another quite well. Even though the album is seven total songs and has a running length of under forty minutes, they manage to never repeat themselves and dip into everything from psychedelic folk to Delta blues and even avant drone. Best of all, the release is structured and really works as one larger piece of music. It flows remarkably well as the two weave their styles from song to song and reveal new layers behind every turn.
Opening slowly, the album builds with humming tones of bowed cymbal while Newman adds some soulful playing around the smokey curls in "The Wherewithal." "Roundabout" follows and Cawdron picks things up with propulsive drumming while the guitar follows the lead. Some of the best moments on the release hit right in the middle, as "Bride Of Bad Attitude" sounds like Cawdron playing spoons while Newman breaks forth with sort of a bluegrass stomp. "Wall Socket Protector" is even more invigorating, as chugging snare drumming syncs in tight with some wicked, bluesy slide guitar.
The rest of the album finds the duo moving back and forth from quiet to louder just as easily, and even when they stretch things out to almost fourteen minutes on the lush "The Pulse Of Parc Ex," they manage to make everything seem like a natural progression. Although there's a lot of artists out their doing somewhat similar things in terms of sound with the whole new folk genre, this debut from Triple Burner is one of the better releases that I've heard in terms of uniqueness of structure and variety of styles. Highly enjoyable, and awesome packaging to boot.
This is the debut release by Triple Burner, aka Harris Newman and Bruce Cawdron, but is by no means the first fruits of their combined efforts as Cawdron has already appeared on Newman’s Non-Sequiturs (2003) and Accidents with Nature and Each Other (2005). The journey to full collaboration has taken a few years of live performance and like those previous releases Triple Burner has a very live-sounding feel.
There is no obvious studio trickery here; no overdubs, computer magic or multi-tracking to hold these songs down. Just the light percussion or electric hums of Cawdron coupled with the repetitive, hypnotic acoustic guitar of Newman. Sometimes they’re so light you’d think they’d float away or dissolve into nothing, but for the most part the duo take this minimal approach and create some otherworldly substance. Only during the meandering 13 minute “The Pulse Of Park Ex” does Triple Burner lose some of the focus built up elsewhere.
As with a lot of minimal or ambient music tracks taken out of the context of their broader home can seem insubstantial or be misunderstood. Likewise this is not an album for iPods, iTunes and 10,000 songs and a shuffle function. It seems to be best considered in two distinct sides (perhaps then the best format is on LP — but I leave that in the air as this is the CD version). The more direct first four tracks have a tempo and tone that builds gradually but also offer differing styles. So they begin with a 50 second sine throb (“Kelvin Says”) moving onto the minimal drone of “The Wherewithal” and ending the ‘side’ with the more upbeat traditional folk of “Bride Of Bad Behaviour”, which sounds like it has spoons-playing at its heart (Rock and Roll!).
The second half has three more disparate offerings. The dark-shuffle delta-blues of “Wall Socket Protector” (which at times recalls the folktronica of Mice Parade or others on the Fat Cat label) proceeds the aforementioned “The Pulse…” which builds slowly into a psychedelic clatter which then takes too long to end, although if you’re chemically enhanced when taking it in you might adjudge the track too short by half. The final track, “Regresso”, is also one of the albums strongest, and adds an Eastern influence to Six Organs Of Admittance’s more contemplative moments.
The lack of vocals, rather than removing depth from Triple Burner, actually allows each track to create a different mood in the listener by focussing on the music and the slight variations within each. The percussion soothes or drives whilst the guitar takes blues, psych, or other forms. It’s perhaps a stretch to see it as an album and more as a long EP, with one track of 7 under a minute and one (too long) at 13. But TB have created a simple, interesting and rewarding experience.
- Tom Inkelaar
Beginning with a 50 second low growl, one can only expect the rest of this phenomenal collaboration by two of Montreal's prodigious artists to head into some seriously deep headspaces. Combining Fahey with ragas and raw rock, Triple Burner is mostly about Harris Newman's guitar, though Bruce Cawdron's drumming is so strangely recorded that it draws you in each time it appears? and that isn't even mentioning the incredible sounds he draws from the glockenspiel.
This is some serious Delta blues meets Led Zep's stomp by way of Bill Frisell's six-string mastery right here, fairly simple and with a live feel that really comes across with each of the seven amazing tracks. Full of riffs and stops, long slides and chiming strings, Newman's guitar playing is flawless as usual. Just go out and find any of his solo albums (the incredible "Non-Sequiturs" or "Accidents with Nature and Each Other" or his work with Cawdron and the amazing but more atmospheric Montreal collective Esmerine).
When the stunning "Roundabout" gets fired up, there is no stopping the ramshackle guitar and drum party wagon as it careens down the dirt highway. You can almost smell the chicken coop and hear the dogs barking at the edge of the swamp. It's almost enough to make you forget that these guys are two dudes from Canada, eh? Then it is on to some amazing clicks and rim-shots for the aptly named "Bride of Bad Attitude", with a huge kick drum/cymbal combo that totally destroys you in the second half of the five-minute tune.
The use of time is the most pleasing aspect of this record. The songs are perfectly paced, building organically but never indulgently. The playing is always going somewhere, which is not always the case with this style of music. Each and every one of these tracks is full of character and purpose, a rarity in instrumental music these days and a blessing to the ears for everyone.
- Grant Capes
This is the type of album that you can listen to over and over again without getting bored. Triple Burner, the talented duo comprised of guitarist Harris Newman and percussionist Bruce Cawdron create their own unique brand of instrumental music that has never been done before. The two musicians combine aspects of folk, psychedelic, blues, country, and even tribal music to develop integrate soundscapes.
The groups self titled release clocks in at just less than forty minutes but is well worth your dime. Each and every song on the album is brilliantly orchestrated, making for an enchanting listening experience. All songs feature Newman's superior guitar picking style that changes through the tracks from clearly country to blues inspired and even krautrock. Even without lyrics Triple Burner are able to conjure up images in the minds of its listeners from the southern delta blues stirred "The Wherewithal" to the eerie nature of the album's closer "Regresso".
The groups minimalist approach to music is refreshing and artistic. Audiophiles will love this release as it is available on CD as well as 180gram Vinyl which would only enhance this albums already excellent sound.
- Paul Borchert
The Globe and Mail
The young Montreal guitarist Harris Newman is an adept of the sort of extended finger-plucking sorcery linked to the names of John Fahey and Robbie Basho. Here, joined by percussionist Bruce Cawdron, he offers a collection a bit less dense than his first couple of records, but still abuzz with transports and discontents.
- Carl Wilson
Triple Burner’s self-titled debut marks the first full-length collaboration between guitarist Harris Newman and Godspeed! You Black Emperor multi-instrumentalist/percussionist Bruce Cawdron. As their impressive instrumental rapport demonstrates, the two are no strangers, having previously worked together on Newman’s two solo albums as well as with group Esmerine. Here, Cawdron fuses his eclectic percussion techniques (he plays not only drums, but also glockenspiel, bells, and so forth) with Newman’s American Primitive guitar to great effect: while Newman’s Fahey-inspired picking is impressive its own right, Triple Burner’s most effective work builds off the interplay between the two musicians.
Newman’s palette, while owing much to John Fahey, flirts with everything from eastern-tinged drones to Delta blues. While he plays primarily acoustic guitar (the electric only figures on one track here), he opts to amplify it, resulting in a resonant, slightly metallic tone. The sound remains the same throughout, and as a result the album feels like a single piece. At first Newman’s guitar seems to emerge out of a blur of white noise, gently joining a meditative drone that originates in the burst of electronic noise and ringing bowed glockenspiel that commence the first track. Things gradually pick up, as Cawdron moves to the drums and literally begins to propel Newman’s picking to full speed, culminating in the slide-guitar fueled “Wall Socket Protector.” The duo take a few questionable forays that put a damper on the album’s momentum, most notably the languid 14-minute “Pulse of Park Ex,” which stretches their penchant for hypnotic repetition to the breaking point.
Triple Burner’s few weak moments seem to result more than anything else from a lack of harmony between its two members — when one becomes less than essential, the music becomes far less interesting. As Cawdron proves, drums and percussion can do much more than keep the beat, but their ability to do so depends on the musicians using them as more than just a backdrop to other instruments. Luckily, he and Newman usually keep this in mind, displaying a remarkable sensitivity to each other and melding together beautifully as though they were playing a single instrument.
- Michael Cramer
Although this self-titled release is a debut, its architects are by no means fresh-faced greenhorns. Triple Burner are comprised of veteran Montreal producer Harris Newman and Bruce Cawdron, percussionist for the notorious Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Given this project's musical pedigree, it comes as no surprise that it's a dense, complex work. Its amalgam of avant-garde folk, classical north Indian influences and rust-ridden, instrumental country blues is hardly the most accessible union. But patience will be rewarded as, gradually, push-pull dynamics, shifts in tension and intricate melodic build-ups are enticingly uncovered. At times, as on the 14-minute "The Pulse Of The Parc Ex," it can all get a little cumbersome, perhaps even tedious. While it may not be the easiest listen, this is a record that will challenge and stimulate those in cerebral, adventurous moods.
- Pras Rajagopalan
Tiny Mix Tapes
An often unnoticed but nevertheless pivotal presence in the Canadian rock underground who has released two solo albums, played with Sackville, Hangedup, Esmerine, and Hrsta, and mixed albums from a number of prominent artists like Wolf Parade and Molasses, guitarist Harris Newman has a palpable passion for music. Like David Pajo, Jim O'Rourke, and other characters whose names appear in a score of liner note credits a year, playing is just what the guy does – he's no weekend warrior or trend-hopper, but a lifer.
Triple Burner, his new band with percussionist and long-time collaborator Bruce Cawdron, exhibits a degree of symbiosis that attests to both performers' passion and joy-in-playing. This earnestness proves alchemical, too, because for all of their experience, neither Newman nor Cawdron are particularly advanced players. Skilled, yes, but their wide array of influences (psych rock, modern composition, raga, all manners of folk) stretches far beyond their capacities as musicians. At points, this gap between reach and grasp produces constipated songs, pieces that want to say more than they can; the meandering jammer "The Pulse of Parc Ex" encounters this problem most often, as Newman finds himself with nowhere to go rather quickly and fails to bide his time effectively.
The good stuff on Triple Burner sounds least ambitious and most exuberant. "Wall Socket Protector" rides a chugging wheels-on-a-traintrack rhythm and sports some downright filthy licks, finding room for fiery tonal enunciations within the limits of a singular vision. We got another shot of dusty blues in "Bride of Bad Attitude," a song more in line with an acoustic Zeppelin stomp than the hazy-eyed contemporary psych-folk acts that equally lively smoker "The Wherewithal" evokes. Newman and Cawdron may lack the vocabulary of, say, Chasny and Corsano, but they still find effective chord voicings and drum fills that keep their songs engaging and communicate just how much fun they're having to listeners.
- p funk
ARCHIVED RADIO RECORDINGS
WFMU Triple Burner live, first broadcasted on December 4 2003
mp3 & downloadable sounds
Lords & Ladies
from Accidents with Nature and Each Other
Triple Burner live on WFMU recorded December 4th 2003
Brainwashed Eye interview and performance clips
PO Box 253, Succ. R
H2S 3K9, Canada