Brent Gorton doesn’t clutter his music with much fanfare. His band Better Pills quietly released Blood Chant last month on their Bandcamp page and for free download at brentgorton.com. “Recorded in a basement during the winter times,” the description reads. “The whole thing is very gloomy,” he wrote to me. Not exactly a hard sell.
His band’s music will similarly spare you the bullshit. “You’re pulling out my heart with knives, and I’m not answering,” he sings on the opening track, over the aortic kick drum of Phil Pascuzzo and a one-note acoustic guitar vamp from Meg Duffy (Gorton’s most exuberant correspondence fittingly described Duffy’s playing as “crackerjack”). The sound is raw and surgical, gloomy perhaps but never lamenting. It’s winter music, boney like exposed tree branches and cold like all that extra sky, but it’s also pragmatic music, more concerned about making itself clear to the listener than making the listener feel a certain way. “Breaking” trades the mono-riff for a couple slabs of Andrew Sullivan’s fuzzed keyboards, between which Gorton’s voice pings and trembles as if locked in a bathroom stall.
Things warm up a bit in the album’s belly, with Gorton chanelling Michael Stipe on the tuneful “Pyramid Scheme” and Duffy’s verb-drenched guitar swaddling an analog synthesizer ditty on “Question of Why.” The album’s longest track, “Freezing Car,” is probably the centerpiece though, both sonically and conceptually. Gorton’s voice stretches the simple lyrics over a shaker egg to echo shimmering tremolo guitar and glacial keyboard swells. Plumes of static punctuate the narrator’s hopeful all-night drive before Duffy and Pascuzzo drop the hammer five minutes in for a cathartic moment of psych-rock abandon.
But, just like that, everything is stripped right back to acoustic guitar and voice for “Dream,” a track that proves the debt Gorton’s “mopecore” owes to Kurt Cobain.