Crows, highly intelligent creatures that live among humans by surviving and flourishing on leftovers, fascinate Ryan Bundy.
The singer and guitarist even named his new project, “Crow’s Share” – a play on lion’s share and a “humble notion” he coined himself.
“Instead of trying to have everything – just take this morsel of what you need and be able to move forward,” he said.
“Crow’s Share” is a breakup album – it traces a relationship ending and a coming to terms with a direction in life that’s not what was expected. That arc unfolds at a pace both stately and prolonged – its 11 original songs and lone cover run for 73 minutes.
The main instrumentation is Bundy’s voice and his selection of folk instruments – acoustic guitar, slide and banjo. There’s some bass supplied by Ben Haber of the Hasslers. Fiddle, viola and backing vocals by Annalisa Ingegno of local bluegrass group Without Annette.
Traditional instruments don’t necessarily mean a traditional album, though.
“I do base everything in those instruments that I play, but I’m highly influenced by so many other genres,” Bundy said. He cited experimental noise projects friends are involved in, such as Portland, Ore. groups Yardsss and Southerly, and former Missoula resident Burke Jam.
“I love trading musical ideas with people like that, (who are) completely outside of your genre,” he said.
And so those familiar acoustic timbres are carefully and often heavily accented with sonic detritus – ambient swells of noise that fill in the backgrounds of the spare songs, recorded mostly in living rooms with mobile recording equipment.
During “On Fire,” the narrator addresses a significant other for verse after midtempo verse for eight minutes, backed by quietly strummed acoustic guitar. A low-volume rustling slowly emerges, filling the empty spaces.
Bundy overdubbed layer after layer of whispers, aiming to create the crackle of a fire. The voices are indecipherable, but the murmuring does relate to the lyrics.
“My intention there was actually to say a lot of concepts that were coming out in the song, but all put together,” he said.
You have free articles remaining.
That song makes a passing reference to the VFW, a bar Bundy has played frequently. In another, “Michelangelo,” he mentions going to the Union Club, where he hears a band play “Bad News from Houston.” The group, though unnamed, is Tom Catmull and the Clerics, and the song is by Townes Van Zandt.
Those local references keep the music rooted in folk, he said.
“I guess that’s what distinguishes folk to me,” he said. “ ... It’s rooted in time and place and events and people.”
While initially mollified during a night out at the bar with a girlfriend, the song’s narrator suddenly takes a dark turn: “And if I ever lose you/My love you’ll know I’ll be/Michelangelo staring out my window, carving away everything I see/That’s not your memory.”
Then it shifts into a soundscape far from traditional folk.
The lightly buzzing slide guitar and carefully paced vocals disappear, and an echoing drum beat stomps to life. Menacing grumbles – they could be synths or heavily processed stringed instruments – begin percolating back and forth.
The “Way Down,” also starts out with a traditional feel that’s gradually tinkered with. The main banjo line is slowly doubled by distorted, heavily processed sounds, and overloaded static bounces between channels on different accents.
It’s heavily processed banjo, an instrument Bundy’s been running through effects pedals lately.
“I played at the Top Hat Dinner Hour, which was not the best venue for distorting your banjo, but I felt like doing it anyway,” he said.
People approached him and told him his banjo “sounded weird.”
He laughed a bit when he recounted it.
It was, he said, “another way of subtly messing with people’s expectations.”