Vast and Sad

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Jacob Anderson's continuing dream at keeping the indie rock dream alive in the 21st century -- but very much on his terms -- gets documented on the live front with Vast and Sad, collecting snippets from four different performances in Portland, Seattle, and Bellingham. Backed up by a rotating collective of like-minded musicians, including members of Minmae and Rose for Bodhan (the latter's Grace Lee adds in some wonderfully whacked-out keyboard noise on the first take of the title track), Anderson's gift for alternately straightforward and decidedly non-Western musics again flowers. "Vast and Sad" itself, two versions of which bracket the album, is particularly fine, somewhere between stretched-out rock angst without being heavy metal per se (something which would doubtless horrify Anderson if he ever stumbled into that territory willingly!) and singing scales more in line with Egyptian or Thai approaches than anything else. The first version comes through a little more clearly, but the frenetic second version -- featuring two drummers! -- is all the more frenetic and downright rollicking as a result. Most of the disc comes from one of the Portland dates, in which Anderson's mournfully fiery voice mixes with the recording quality to give his vocals an entrancing impact; a bit like an echoed sermon down from the mountaintop without lecturing or hectoring. "Let's Climb a Mossy Hill" might be about as close as he'll ever get to power pop per se, with Sean Brooks laying down a steady beat and Anderson sounding both in control and crazily desperate over the steady chug. Then again all 50 seconds of "Appear to Be" isn't too far off on that front either, though it's even more clear there that his love for New Zealand's underground rock history hasn't disappeared.