Todd Umhoefer is a machine. In 2013, Old Earth – the product of that well-oiled musical machine – had a banner year, with a handful of great releases (including Small Hours, which cracked our Best Albums list), some captivating local outings and even some shows in Europe. Under a month into 2014, Umhoefer put the wraps on 13-minute opus All Kill, his first release of a year that holds the promise of even greater Old Earth output – both in terms of volume and in quality.
A storm of distorted palm-muted guitar and feedback lunges All Kill into action. The murky outset soon subsides, leaving a chunky guitar riff that’s looped for much of the track. Umhoefer traverses a wide range of the fret board to lay a ambitious lick atop the rhythmic remnant to set up the opening line, “What’s this fire for? What’s this rage off a stage? Hi, hello?” as the guitar loops pile up and the song swells to a crescendo some four minutes in.
From there, the opening riff creeps out and the song splinters off into a driving, jangly and more vocally dependant direction. While technically one long song, the rendering meanders betwixt four distinct movements. Occasionally (while seldomly), Umhoefer’s sharp and chilling voice takes the wheel. However, his intricate and intensive instrumentation decidedly steers the majority of All Kill.
He’s not alone on the record either. Members of Field Report (including Christopher Porterfield), Altos and other lauded Milwaukee acts pitch in instrumental and vocal accompaniment, too. After everyone takes their turn within the first 10 minutes, the meat of the first movement is reprised as All Kill fades. The Oak Creek-born artist’s approach to releasing music is cruel, in the way a drug dealer offers “just a taste” to hook potential consumers. Fortunately, this driven folk hybrid phenom is hitting his stride of late, and won’t miss a chance to give listeners their next fix soon.
Old Earth plays with Ugly Brothers and Paul Smirl [Ghost Of James] at Riverwest Public House tonight (Friday). The show begins at 9 p.m. and costs $5 at the door. All Kill will be available for streaming and purchase soon.