No one can accuse Magnolia Summer leader Chris Grabau of getting lazy. Sixteen months after the release of the band's most recent (and strongest) LP, Lines From the Frame, Grabau and company have compiled a pair of digital EPs (which are available at your favorite online MP3 retailer; find the list online at www.magnoliasummer.com). At first glance, the EPs seem like an odds-and-ends collection — and, sure enough, there are the requisite demos, alternate takes and even a remix included. But what's more striking about the songs is how many disparate styles and influences Grabau explores. "Rangeline," the first track on Slip, begins like an Album Leaf track; its minimal drum-machine pulse and airy keyboard notes get caught like flies in a web of hazy ambience. That same experimentation appears on Current's "The High Road," as a percussion loop and New Order-esque guitar lines allow for one of Grabau's most fragile and arresting vocals.
Many songs are altered versions of Lines songs or unheard demos for that record. Of the former, "Pulling Phase to Ground (Horn Mix)" finds Magnolia Summer at its house-rockingest, with members of the Funky Butt Brass Band giving a bright counterpoint to the clanging guitars. André Allen Anjos of the Remix Artist Collective (RAC) gives an alternately dreamy and visceral re-reading of "Diminished Returns" by pushing the dizzying guitar arpeggios into overdrive and letting the big synthesizer pads cycle through their phases. Of the new songs, the guitar-and-vocal simplicity of the demos works well for "Planned Obsolescence," as short and sweet of a track that we've heard from Grabau. These songs — and the EPs — are just more reminders that Magnolia Summer's table scraps are as satisfying as many bands' main courses.
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