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Gun Outfit - "Two Way Player" | Album Review

by Sebastian Friis Sharif

Lumping in Gun Outfit – especially with the direction they've taken on their latest releases in mind - with the resurgence of Americana (War On Drugs, Phosphorecent etc.) might seem like the obvious thing to do. On first listen their songs seem to fit in well with the archetypal tales of hardship and heartbreak, and, sure, their music could easily soundtrack images of mesas, tumbleweed, long-winding roads and dingy bars. The vocal interplay between Dylan Sharp's sonorous baritone and Caroline Keith's world-weary siren even comes off as a sort of modern indie rock equivalent to Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood.

When listening more attentively, however, an alien quality in their music becomes noticeable. A vein of eastern mysticism seems to run through it most evident in the almost occult imagery of the opener of Two Way Player, 'Expansion Pact'. Here Sharp cryptically sings of 'forming circles' and 'summoning familiars' atop gently resonating sitars. Not surprisingly the band are professed fans of surrealist filmmaker, Alejandro Jodorowski.

Music to Gun Outfit, then, seems to be an almost spiritual undertaking. Tellingly, the files I received for the this review had the genre tag ”Cosmic American Music” (a term coined by Gram Parsons to describe his own music), and it's an apt description: they seems to simultaneously embrace and reject the conventions of Americana. 

Gun Outfit's approach to writing songs is not as much about structure as it is about creating a distinctive vibe. Single chords are often dragged for several measures, while the jammy guitars and stark instrumentation provide more atmosphere than melody. The laid-back ”Make Me Promise”, for instance, is over in a little under 2 minutes without as much as a single hook, and yet it sits perfectly in the track list like a small song vignette leading on the EP highlight, the lovelorn slowcore-esque ballad, ”King Of Hearts”. In this way the songs on Two Way Player (and the band's other releases for that matter) flow the ties in well with the recurring themes of transition and change.

With the band's disregard for drama and crowd-pleasing formulas, the 30+ minutes worth of pure vibes of their full-lengths can be a little daunting to the uninitiated, and as such, Two Way Player is an excellent entry into a band with a steadily growing cult. But if you hope to get any wiser on the subject of Gun Outfit, you'll be disappointed: they are as enigmatic as ever.