If most of Mark Deutrom’s new LP — The Blue Bird, kicking off 2019 Friday via Seasons of Mist — is any indication, the titular bird is a blue of the moody variety. Deutrom, guitarist-turned-bassist-turned-guitarist, Texan, ex-Melvin, has always packed his solo outings with lots of texture, context and ambiance. Sequencing, in particular, always has been vital; sometimes, Deutrom will throw a one- or two-minute instrumental curve-ball at you just to dress the stage for the next act. But the oft- somber Blue Bird does this more than any of his other releases and, while it’s a great sit-through listen, it will take a few spins before the obvious stand-outs, well, stand out.
The fragile, glassy jazz of “Hell Is A City,” counter-intuitively, might be the record’s best track, with, dare I say, Pink Floyd-ish guitars that float through the air, a tingle of percussion, an understated upright bass. If you give yourself over it, it’s almost other-worldly. Deutrom pulls similar tricks on the appropriately sleepy “Somnambulist,” where the percussion pushes things forward but the sound that gets stuck in your ears is not the drums but, instead, reverby guitar and Deutrom’s plaintive laments.
This isn’t to say The Blue Bird doesn’t rock. “The Happiness Machine,” near the end, is like a punchier version of former bandmate Dale Crover’s groove-oriented “Bad Move,” with Deutrom adding crunchy guitars and arena-sized refrains that Crover lacked. “Our Revels Now Are Ended” barks with guitars that wouldn’t be out of place on a Dylan Carlson LP. “Futurist Manifesto” is an instrumental with more jagged, hooked guitars and, for a spell, a thrash-metal kick-drum. And “O Ye of Little Faith” is big and anthemic, in its heavy moments a cross of Mountain and Bullhead-era Melvins, just accented with the trill buzzing of a Hammond organ.
Traveled in one straight shot, The Blue Bird is a decidedly melancholy LP, book-ended by “No Space Holds The Weight” and the closing “Nothing Out There,” with their slack-jawed post-rock-isms. It’s a slightly less angular affair, for sure, than Bellringer’s Jettison, essentially a Deutrom solo outing from 2016, but no less ambitious. At its worst, it wanders off-course a little bit but rewards you for its detours. At its best, it can lull and mesmerize. If you’re willing to let Deutrom lead the way in real-time, it’s a highly nuanced and highly textured piece of art-rock/jazz-rock/whatever-rock. And, after a year of Deutrom re-issues from Seasons of Mist, it’s definitely a great pay-off.