Bigfoot Wallace - Malleable
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: May 14, 2011
When “Turn em Loose”, the first track from Bigfoot Wallace’s album Malleable, begins, similarities to Radiohead are instantly recognizable. With stacatto drum loops and eerie piano, one can’t help but think about Kid A or Amnesiac. And this is a feeling that continues throughout the entire album. An 8 song, 30 minute collection of electronically driven songs, it lasts a perfect amount of time without becoming grating or repetitive.
The amount of instrumentation and depth to the composition becomes even more surprising when we learn that Bigfoot Wallace is the work of just one man, Jon Hubbel from Chandler, AZ. In “Noontime”, the third track, the listener is bombarded with guitar, drums, strings, and just about every other sound, before everything drops down to simple piano part halfway through. It’s this sort of unpredictability that keeps the listener guessing throughout the album.
But for every complex song, there’s a simple one to complement it. In the title track, only piano and drums accompany Hubbel’s voice, and it really gives his vocals a chance to shine. The repeated line of “I’m afraid to move/to you and away from her” is a perfect complement to the uncertainty that dominates the album both musically and lyrically.
“Smiling Face” is another track with minimal musical backing, with layered vocals doing most of the work. This is followed by “Stay In The Ground”, a song that slowly builds, starting with only an acoustic guitar, and building to strings, horns, drums, and simply noise. The horns kick in, and then the song drops into one of the heavier breakdowns of the album, becoming reminiscent of some of the more electric-guitar driven Sufjan Stevens songs.
The penultimate track, “Enrichment”, takes a different turn into more indie-pop territory, with crashing cymbals and gorgeous piano. This provides a nice break from the chaos of the previous tracks, and segues perfectly into the album’s final track, “Home of the Hebrew.” The song starts off slowly, like many of the songs, with only piano and Hubbel’s vocals, as he repeats, “I’ll be fine.” It builds up to a crescendo of tremolo guitar and chaotic drums, before dropping out completely, and leaving just a piano line to finish things out.
If I had only one problem with the album, it would be the lyrics. As is the case with this kind of music, the lyrics aren’t really at the forefront of the listener’s focus, due to everything happening musically. But as someone who judges lyrics more than anything else, I found it hard to connect with a lot of the songs due to the lack of depth in the words. But this is only nitpicking at what is a very good album, and a showcase of what just one musician can accomplish.