By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
There is method, so they say, underneath all this madness--a reason the glass breaks when it does, a reason the metal sheets reverberate just so, a reason for all this rancorous disquiet to exist in the first place. It's all in the name of art, so they say, experiments in sound that dissect and destroy music until the individual pieces are unrecognizable in any form. So Sean Donovan's Fallen Vlods project exists not as a one-man band, but a no-band man--metallic belches replacing melodies, echoes and reverberations supplanting words, feedback and terror filling in the gaps.
Donovan is indeed a trained musician (studying trumpet and composition, and he plays with the Mustang Band, for God's sake), but this is as far removed from "music" as shit is from chocolate. You will find nothing pleasant about the sounds this Southern Methodist University student creates, nothing to distinguish one piece from the next unless you have the ears of a dog and the patience of a leper, but Donovan gets his message across: Substance and style are interchangeable in the electronic age, and in the end all sound is reduced to maddening noise.
Car radios and televisions blaring in the background through open windows, copiers whirring and phones ringing and beepers beeping, airplanes blasting through the sky, and computers moaning a false electronic silence--this is the sound of Donovan's recordings, no matter if the piece is called "Ill Bullets Blast" or "Songs for a Whore Gaining Speed" (it's impossible to discern where one piece ends and another begins, which is most surely the intention). In the end, all these things fit together to create an incidental sound you don't notice until it drives you crazy.
As a singer, Tim Keller's a fine storyteller with even a touch of the poet in him (even if "grindstones" and "rhinestones" force the issue, and they're in the same sentence); he's a bona fide product of Texas folkmanship--a little country, a little blues, harmonica and mandolin amid acoustic guitar and flag-waving-and-hand-holding songs. Exhibit No. 1: "If God was on our side/I swear there'd be no enemy."
But as a storyteller, his voice is as flat and dry as blacktop in the summer--which means if he lived in Austin, he'd be a revered superstar with a deal on Dejadisc Records and a steady gig opening for Jerry Jeff or Joe Ely; but in Dallas, he's just another upright singer-songwriter who keeps company with outlaws (Donny Ray Ford) and folkies (Ann Armstrong, Colin Boyd) and writes songs so detailed and wordy he makes Bruce Springsteen look like an illiterate mute. Exhibit No. 2: "Working on my tan 'cause I am so white."