The obsessions of prolific New York-based writer and musician Bob Gaulke are neatly assimilated on Transportation – it might seem an odd juxtaposition of assemblage but Gaulke’s love of poetry, New Zealand music from the 1980s and 1990s and more modern Brazilian feels is instantly on display for the opening, scene-setter: Bad Writer. It’s like The Bats or early solo Phil Judd taking the words and delivery style of New York-era Lou Reed but asking for production and arrangement suggestions from Zach Condon, Tchad Blake and Mitchell Froom.
In short: it’s wonderful.
OnFoot’s soft-shoe shuffle of a narrative is couched in a tunnel of percussive grooves as horns trickle and ooze at the sides.
UpSyndrome has some of the feel and flavour of solo David Byrne – but imagine, if you could, Chris Knox stepping up to deliver a cover of a song from Rei Momo.
I love the material here – but just as much I love imagining how these song-settings were created and how Gaulke has reconciled all of the sounds and moods in his head.
There are a couple of guest-vocalist tracks too. Vivian Benford delivers light jazz in a manner reminiscent of the St. Vincent of her earliest records. And across a saxophone waft and a groove that seems to somehow pulse a samba and bossanova together it’s a brief, beguiling affair.
Peri Mason takes the lead on Another Rat, again it’s a David Byrne-sounding rhythm guitar part, with slinky drums and soulful horns.
There’s a huge exploration of music across a brief running time. Ten tracks, and just over 30-minute run time – but like great songwriters from Todd Rundgren to John Hiatt there is something in compositional sharpness and dogged self-belief of Gauke that inspires this collection, that binds these songs. There’s brittle edges of cornball funk (Turkmenistan), plaintive balladry finds a home inside a lithe pop song (Subway Lovers) and if you can imagine Ed Motta and Joe Jackson ever collaborating – then those would be the impossible friends that made closing track Impossible Friends.
I love where this album takes me. Strange, fascinating places. You have to hear it.