Q-pup’s new album, Ancient Agriculture and What It Means, is out now via Tilde Records
“dedicated to n8”
Who: Luke Roberts
What: Noise Folk, Bedroom Indie Rock, 4-Track Bright Eyes
Where: Minneapolis, MN
Why: The indie-folk genre tag has started to give me PTSD when I see it in a Bandcamp description. It all just starts to remind of that one Michael Cera album we’ve all tried to forget, but I never can, True That. The smug name, the shitty cover art, the awful recording quality, and half-assed songs, all delivered with a shrug and a “it’s supposed to be that way” smirk.
Enter Q-Pup, with the esoterically named Ancient Agriculture And What It Means, and the dreaded indie folk, lo-fi, and bedroom tags. I sort of mentally drew a picture of what I was about to hear, ready to forget it already.
That picture was nothing like the fuzzy electric piano of “Ishtar Gate (Cell Tower 1216682)” and the emotionally raw voice of Luke, liberated of any layers of irony or trepidation that so many of his contemporaries wallow in. The atonal finger picked guitar lines peck at the ears, casting the song in discomfort, as Luke whispers that he’s “scared of what’ll I’ll do”, and the gravel in his voice convinced me he really was.
Luke is a maximalist, never content to let a song be bare bones and hope that will be interpreted as “being emotional”. For Luke emotion comes through harsh harmonica solos and teenage yelps, or from heavy multitracked vocals and gently panned female choir vocals. Sometimes those layers upon layers of sounds float in sync beautifully, like on “My Brother’s Bigfoot Sighting”, where the rich vocal harmonies, and the gentle ping of electronics below send the song into a hazy daze.
As a student of The Microphones though, they just as frequently fall out of sync, and come in as walls of noise. Letting songs fall apart in distorted atonal guitar riffs, like on the miserable “Red America”, just after Luke informs us in a yell that “When the gavel fell/ I felt criminal hypoxia/ Pouring out my stomach onto you”. The sort of surrealistic, and violent imagery that hits your ear just as sideways as that arrhythmic guitar.
Ancient Agriculture and What It Means is by no means a perfect record, there are tracks where Luke produces a soundscape, but forgets to write the song that forms those sounds into something more meaningful. When he remembers to write it out first though, he wrenches out something like “If I Were Any Lonelier I Would Be The Earth (Or the Chain That Holds It In Place)”, one of the most emotionally intense songs of 2017.