Pullman's 1998 debut, Turnstyles & Junkpiles, was a set of chipper acoustic string pieces recorded live, sans overdubs--breezy instrumentals awash in fingerpicking, pastoral landscapes, and pass-the-guitar folksiness. But the band's core quartet includes Ken (formerly Bundy K.) Brown and Doug McCombs, both restless intergenre explorers, so it'd be foolish to expect Pullman to paint from the same palette on their latest, Viewfinder (Thrill Jockey). Though the acoustic string thing is still the core of the concept--Chris Brokaw and Curtis Harvey, former members of Come and Rex, respectively, pluck or strum a lengthy list of instruments, including dulcimer and bouzouki--the new album adds a drummer, New Yorker Tim Barnes, which gives the music a more obvious (though still understated) grounding in rock. Barnes, most recently seen with Neil Hagerty's blues-rock band, is capable of great subtlety, unobtrusively propelling tracks like "Same Grain With New Wood" and "FLT" with his chuffing brush work or gently supporting the melody of the sweet, Spanish-tinged "Isla Mujeres" without smothering its idiosyncratic details. Folk references are never too far away, but the electric guitar washes that slide in and out of the new record's songs also nudge it in the direction of Bill Frisell's Americana soundscapes--albeit augmented by weird textures and oddball elements that recall the work McCombs has done as Brokeback. Combined with a more pronounced use of gentle, cyclical rhythms those details--many of them electronic in origin and folded into the music via overdubbing--further distinguish Viewfinder from its predecessor, placing this incarnation of Pullman somewhere near Town and Country or early Gastr del Sol (which included Brown) in the vast interbred Chicago post-rock zoo. McCombs's Eleventh Dream Day bandmate Janet Bean, road testing material for a solo album due next year, opens both shows with a backing band called the Concertina Wire. Saturday and Sunday, April 13 and 14, 10 PM, the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; 773-227-4433.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sam Prekop.