Graded on a Curve: Andrew Weathers Ensemble, Fuck Everybody, You Can
Do Anything

Though he currently resides in Oakland CA, improviser and composer Andrew Weathers originally hails from North Carolina. His geographical circumstances are reflected in the nature of his work; having studied Electronic Music at Mills College, Weathers plays guitar and banjo and carries knowledge of musical traditions ranging from experimental to rural Appalachia. Issuing music in a variety of contexts on Full Spectrum Records, a prominent project is the Andrew Weathers Ensemble; Fuck Everybody, You Can Do Anything is their latest and also Full Spectrum’s inaugural venture into the vinyl format.

My introduction to Andrew Weathers came earlier this year through Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem, Volume 7, the most recent entry in a long-running series dedicated to varying strains of Guitar Soli. Loaded with choices made by 20-year-old string phenom Hayden Pedigo, the contributors were wide-ranging and many of them previously obscure; investigating further, Weathers was among the most prolific.

Along with solo work, duos, and leading his Ensemble, Weathers performs and records in Parties, Kirtan Choir, and Tethers while finding time to co-operate Full Spectrum with his friend and fellow musician Andrew Marino. The outcome is a bountiful discography, which is unsurprising when considering a main component in Weathers’ artistry is improvisation.

The advent of digital-only releasing (a la numerous cassette-only enterprises before) has inspired some improv-based figures to emit a steady outpouring of product that eventually becomes insurmountable, though in most cases surmounting isn’t particularly desirable since little or no self-editing informs the process amassed in the pile.

However, a sampling of Weathers’ Full Spectrum wares illuminates an underlying sense of quality control and a well-considered and disciplined personal aesthetic. He also received a BA in composition from UNC-Greensboro and has studied with Fred Frith, Roscoe Mitchell, and Eugene Chadbourne, a trio of non-slouches if ever one was assembled, so any worries over Weathers’ abilities can be laid to rest.

The output of the Andrew Weathers Ensemble is still fairly concise. Fuck Everybody, You Can Do Anything is described as the third in a trilogy that began with We’re Not Cautious, a compact disc issued in 2011 not by Full Spectrum but on the Sleep on the Floor imprint (and currently available digitally through Weathers’ Bandcamp).

By my count there are five releases credited to the personnel-shifting bi-coastal unit. Completing the list is Rough Hemmed Seams, a document of a ’11 live performance in Greensboro by a nine-member group, ‘12’s Guilford County Songs, an “acoustic reinterpretation of Weathers’ 2009 solo album A Great Southern City” as rendered by a slim quartet, and ‘13’s What Happens When We Stop, a collection utilizing the input of 16 individuals.

That’s the amount of players listed on Fuck Everybody, though it’s not the same lineup or instrumentation. Weathers does have favored musicians featured on a number of the Ensembles’ recordings, amongst them Eric Perreault, Scott Siler, Lindsay Smith, Austin Glover, and Joshua Marshall, all of whom take part in creating the outfit’s latest.

There are also recurring elements spanning back to We’re Not Cautious. These characteristics include but are certainly not limited to environments of electronic exploration intermittently attaining a celestial hue, and strumming and vocalizing derived from folk sources, specifically old-time heavyweights Dock Boggs and Clarence Ashley.

The result is that the Andrew Weathers Ensemble can conjure bits of chamber Modernism, drifting clouds of synthesizer-driven kosmische, Takoma Records-styled fingerpicking, underpinnings of gliding drone, and expressions of gentle minimalism, all from inside a solitary track, in this case We’re Not Cautious’ “To Burn Yourself Completely.”

Many of these traits impact Fuck Everybody, You Can Do Anything’s seven selections, though the finished work is defined by growth. “Live By Golden Rule: Go Orange Be Strong” opens the LP with gradually rising drone-tinged ambiance, serene reed tones and electro additives mingled with what sounds like banjo (it might be a detuned acoustic guitar), then Austin Glover’s fiddle, and finally Weather’s voice.

Thankfully, the leader’s singing avoids plummeting into the faux-hick aura familiar to folks examining rural traditions. Instead he inhabits a zone that could easily stroke the lobes of contemporary indie consumers. I will add that on previous efforts Weathers’ throat took some getting used to and at moments actually gravitated toward the off-putting, but on Fuck Everybody he seems to have shaken off the mannered tendencies and found his sweet spot; on the opener his weary tone is very likeable.

Additionally, he knows when the voice is simply superfluous; standout “They Said That One Day We’d Be Free” is a showcase for bass clarinet, upright bass, electronics, and what seems to be lightly blown (and possibly computer-treated) harmonica. A gorgeous five minutes of minimalist drone, all by itself it reinforces Weathers as a musician to watch in a ludicrously crowded field.

“Keep Fighting 2k15” highlights the expert fingerpicking that landed him on the abovementioned Tompkins Square comp, his skills augmented by sleepy emoting and a succession of studio enhancements; there’s subtle echo, what sounds like a field recording, and as the succinct track nears closure, pace manipulation of the vocals (they get slower).

It’s perhaps the only place on the album where Weathers’ professed influence of mainstream rap and R&B becomes borderline tangible; likewise, a stated “love of mid-aughts emo” is more or less implicit, though the foulmouthed encouragement of the record’s title kinda fits the scenario. This is to the good, for the subtleties in the mode of operation found here is preferable to blatant genre dabbling.

“You Are Powerful and We Are Taking Over” broadens the instrumental palette through Weathers’ piano and Scott Siler’s vibraphone, and also wields a surplus of vocals; enhanced, at times surging and at others near ethereal. The tactic succeeds, but I greatly prefer the blend of drone, abstraction and hill-roots-derived fervor that spans the nine minutes of “We Will Never See a Could Again.”

Clearly gospel-inspired in its title, “Shout, O Glory! Sing Glory, Hallelujah” is an experimental-inclined instrumental. It offers deep bowed-string action accented by more chiming vibraphone and deftly integrated with the ebb and flow of electronics; upon first listen, as the piece unwound I momentarily thought of Laurie Spiegel.

The mountain-drone of closer “There’s Trouble Until the Robins Come” finds Weathers returning on vocals, the supplementary voice of Gretchen Korsmo occasionally surfacing beneath; with a few notes of electric guitar toward the front and a slowly dissipating finale, it bookends well “Live By Golden Rule: Go Orange Be Strong.”

The sequencing of Fuck Everybody, You Can Do Anything paints Andrew Weathers as more than just an experimenter; he’s an increasingly adroit craftsman as well. Hopefully this isn’t the last we’ll hear from his Ensemble.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B+

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