Next week, DFA Records will re-release Slim Twig’s A Hound at the Hem — although “re-release” is a bit of a misnomer, to be perfectly honest. The album was never widely released to begin with, for reasons made clear in DFA’s accompanying literature: “Upon completing AHATH in 2010, Twig struggled to find wide release for [the album] due to its uncompromising textural onslaught and disregard for genre. This course of events set the stage for the composition and release of Sof’ Sike, a somewhat more conventional set of pop songs released on Paper Bag Records, in 2012. The title of that work refers to Twig’s own conception of Hound as the hard-psych flipside to his work of that period.” Twig, the moniker for Toronto native Max Turnbull, recorded the album in 2010 and self-released it in a very limited run on vinyl in 2012. And so Turnbull went on with his prolific creative life, which includes acting and scoring films (his latest was 2013’s We Come as Friends, the festival-favorite doc about Sudan’s internal conflict).
Believe me when I say A Hound at the Hem is a deeply weird album that draws from rock’s past without retreading much ground. At times I’m reminded of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, but that doesn’t account for the grandiosity of Twig’s ambitions and reference points. That much is clear from the album’s orchestral elements, choir of voices, and patchwork of synths and feedback-laden guitars. Owen Pallett arranged the strings, and they’re nothing short of stunning — and unnerving.
Thematically, A Hound At The Hem is even more fascinating. “An echolike response to Serge Gainsbourg and Jean-Claude Vannier’s Histoire De Melody Nelson” is a phrase that appears in every text about A Hound at the Hem I’ve read. Lyrically, the album stands as a suite of lust narratives inspired by Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. “Referencing Lolita was a way for me to kick start my imagination,” Twig tells Flavorwire. “Having some kind of narrative skeleton to bend, and complete. A jump start for my subconscious.”
“My ambition with A Hound At The Hem was to make something an inch or two out of my grasp, to expand what I was capable of as a writer and producer,” Twig says. As becomes evident listening to the album, Twig is capable of quite a lot, and all at once. Flavorwire is pleased to stream A Hound At The Hem ahead of its release on Tuesday (October 28).
(main image by Malina Corpadean)