The Co Founder‘s Whiskey and 45’s is a raw, stripped-down acoustic offering that falls at the intersection of slowcore singer/songwriter vibes, rough-n-tumble country delivery, and alt-rock gruffness. The arrangements in the EP skew toward the sparse, but The Co Founder rarely lets things go totally acoustic. There’s a lot of atmosphere built into the five songs here, which serves to underscore (while helping create) the unique world these songs live in.
Hayden Eller’s vision of acoustic music is contained in the two opening tunes. “Balance and Composure” is a slow boat paddling, a lazy breeze over a brown-grass hill, a rolling pastoral that displays difficult emotions without poring over them. Elephant Micah would have been proud to write this one, aside from the muscly, guitar-chord-heavy chorus that provides a counterpoint to the gentle surroundings. If the verses are the composure, the chorus is the balance. “Yves St. Laurant” flips the script, focusing on the tough exterior; it’s raw, rough, and intense. It feels like a hollowed-out alt-rock song or an the sturdy skeleton of ominous alt-country tune. Yet quiet moments exist amid the brittle, powerful delivery. It’s a tension that Eller keeps at the forefront of his work.
That tension is pulled together with the subtle arrangement touches that help build the ambiance of the tunes. “Yves St. Laurant” includes clips of Heath Ledger as the Joker talking about morals, which is enough to make any song skin-crawling. It fits perfectly with the heavy delivery of the tune. The wide-open tom pounds that punctuate “Balance and Composure” point to the space and flow of the sound. Elsewhere, the distant lead guitar of “Harris Avenue” sends me to an empty street in an ominous, dusty frontier town; the background of “His Own Damn Self” is filled with found sound and pad synths. (Eller is aware of this; he includes an acoustic version of this one as the final track.) Closer “March 13th” includes indiscernible conversations for texture. Each element provides a pop of definition in the tunes, staking out remote and rare sonic territory for The Co Founder’s own.
Whiskey and 45’s is a pretty intense EP. Eller’s interests in minor keys, powerful delivery, and sonic texturing result in a collection that cuts against the current grain of easy-going folky tunes (that I love, it should be pointed out). Eller wrangles the striking sonic elements and the expectation inversions together with great success: the results display a distinct and memorable point of view. I’m intrigued to see how his songwriting voice develops and where his experiments with sonic texturing lead him.