The Miller Fantasies

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Originally released in 2000 as part of the vinyl edition of Full Negative (or) Breaks, The Miller Fantasies surfaced on its own two years later in an intriguing limited edition (Mark Dwinell created a painting, divided it up into 306 squares and use one each as separate, individual covers for the full run of the disc). Not an album recorded as such, The Miller Fantasies collects what is described as "our favorite 4-track recordings from 1997-1999," often including some real winners. "The New Hour" is a great way to start off the collection, combining a steady space beat Can or Hawkwind might have loved with deep, shadowy guitar extrapolations equal parts Ash Ra Tempel and shoegaze -- it's familiar territory from the band, but no less compelling for that. Dwinell and bandmate Joe LaBrecque work through a variety of styles throughout, from rhythmic folk (at least that's what part of the acoustic guitar on "East Coker" sounds like, as well as "Wine King") to murky, rustling improv at shifting volume levels ("Orleans") and queasy psychedelic moans over loping beats ("Poison and Earwax"). The low-key origins of the songs give a relaxed, exploratory feeling to many of the tracks -- nothing ever sounds sloppy, happily enough, and there's a feeling more than once that even though they're overdubbed performances it's a full band jam at play. Check out "Commonwealth," with a nicely woozed, reverbed Dwinell vocal over what could easily be a four-person or more combination rather than the two in fact making everything. There's a lot of individual flair at work as well -- LaBrecque slips in some sly martial drum rolls throughout the title track, while the concluding "The Pearl" has a more direct Dwinell singing part that still sounds a touch forlorn and abandoned.