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Death Vessel plays the Earl 9/14

Mostly the voice



Death Vessel frontman Joel Thibodeau's arresting falsetto flutters like a hummingbird in the highest register, alighting over rustic country-folk and Americana. His warbling counter-tenor contributes to the music's otherworldly air, which – despite the gorgeous gossamer melodies and bustling bluegrass accompaniment – sounds like it's pursued by shadows.

There's a palpable tension on songs such as "Exploded View," in which he confesses to being "Born uncalibrated to magnetic north/never split just indifferent/never backward, never forth." Others are nearly inscrutable, if still evocative, like "The Widening," which opens, "The strapping and the seam have parted ways and come clean/Crustaceous in form and crated with A-shaped holes."

"As a listener, I find little to no importance in lyrics. As a songwriter, lyrics offer the opportunity to explore free thought, so I try to take advantage of that freedom," Thibodeau explains via e-mail a day after returning to the States to play Seattle's Bumbershoot festival.

Thibodeau's Sub Pop debut, Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us, is his second solo album, and according to him, "It's not a follow-up to [2005's] Stay Close, but rather the most recent document representing my take on my place in the world."

Recorded over the course of the last four years, it grew from rough-hewn demos to full-bodied numbers employing a variety of instruments and collaborators. Chief among them is multi-instrumentalist Pete Donnelly, with whom Thibodeau has worked since 1998.

"Most of the time we were the only two people in the studio," Thibodeau says.

The album differs from his live performances, which are generally solo. Though Thibodeau's odd vocals are the peg on which much of the initial interest in him rests, he believes people will be equally drawn to the other elements of his music. "People will form their own opinions. I'm not worried," he confides, "and I'm not interested in gimmickry."

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