Shawn David McMillen Dead Friends

It would have been easy to pass off this album as a mess based upon first listen. But, as is the case with many recordings that fly in the face of all musical common sense, Dead Friends soon reveals itself on many confounding, but not unrewarding, levels. The Austin-based McMillen certainly has some experience in this field, having worked with folk iconoclasts such as Jandek and Max Ochs. Dead Friends is McMillen's third solo album, and from opening track "Walking Home (At The End Of The Night)," which sounds as ominous as its title, McMillen pulls no punches in crafting disturbing sonic collages out of an arsenal of acoustic instruments. Although some of the pieces, such as "A Morning With Dead Friends," resemble African field recordings, most of the album is rooted in Appalachian traditions, albeit in the darkest sense. For the open-minded, to be sure, but a challenge worth accepting. (Tompkins Square)