Mark Growden’s Electric Pinata – Inside Beneath Behind (2001)

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MARK GROWDEN’S ELECTRIC PINATA – INSIDE BENEATH BEHIND (2001)

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This special HAND-MADE LIMITED-EDITION is NEARLY SOLD OUT! The covers are hand screenprinted and designed by Mark Growden himself with artwork by Seattle based muralist and painter Billy Davis. They’re beautiful and definitely worth the $.

This is a moody and wintery album. Passionate and atmospheric. It’s difficult to put it in a specific category. Many of the songs were commissions for dance and theater companies in San Francisco.

It features such instruments as accordion, bass accordion, trumpet, alto horn, baritone horn, trombone, upright bass, banjo, slide guitar, bowed cymbals, Hammond organ, Sona, Thavil, baritone and soprano saxophones, prepared guitar, field organ, scissors, and voice.

The album features some of the Bay Area’s finest musicians including:

  • Myles Boisen (Tom Waits, Clubfoot Orchestra, Splatter Trio)
  • Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Faun Fables, Idiot Flesh)
  • Freddi Price (Rube Waddell, Extra Action Marching Band)
  • Jim Santi Owen (Pharoah Sanders, Tabla Rasa)
  • Chris Grady (Tom Waits, Grassy Knoll, Clubfoot Orchestra).

Here are some press quotes that describe me and my music well:

“Fiery, earthy and sublimely sensual.” – Comet Magazine

“An unusual and voracious talent.” – Willamette Week

“Theatrical, dark and sexy.” – West Coast Performer

“Mark Growden has to be one of California’s most colorful and intriguing musicians…Growden is a genius…” – Albuquerque Alibi

“Part singer-songwriter, part bluesman, part avant-gardist, he’s an avatar of bohemian weirdness on a par with Tom Waits or Joe Henry…” – Fort Worth Weekly

“Torrid lyricism and fierce accordion rascality. His live shows…are becoming the stuff of legend.” – East Bay Express

“Growden’s Music is a caliope of tangos, marches, pedal steel blues, and eloquent acoustic ballads. In his hands, parade scores unravel to become inebreated waltzes. Ballads are stretched thin and poked with forks. Melodies dance like wicked children… His songs are a carefully crafted patina of cultural influences, arranged and orchestrated with an uncanny ear for what, where, and more importantly how they sound best.” – S.F. Bay Guardian

“A gifted composer of twisted tangos and distorted marches, Growden is indeed a beautiful freak.” CMJ Weekly

Here are some press reviews for Inside Beneath Behind:

From the SF Weekly

“Local tales avow that the young Mark Growden ambled through North America like a monk, with naught but a tin whistle, the clothes on his back, and an egg-shaped wind instrument called a double ocarina. This suited the musical lover of pots and pans and other culinary contrivances: The lad was learning to improvise with ingredients offered by the world, and he trusted it would enrich his compositions, if not his pockets.

When he wandered into San Francisco he began writing instrumental scores for theater and dance. This went along fairly well until, as often happens, fortune arrived masked as calamity: All of Growden’s instruments were stolen from his dressing room. Transforming his lament into song, the multi-instrumentalist found a voice that night, which eventually gave rise to Downstairs Karaoke, a full-length album of off-kilter ruminations that jump on carnival trucks and track muddy feet through Eastern European weddings.

On his second release, Inside Beneath Behind, we again find Growden’s familiar ally Myles Boisen behind the mixing board and in masterful control of all sorts of guitar; Growden himself taking turns at accordion, Hammond organ, banjo, sax, auto harp, toy piano, PVC pipes, bass drum, two-by-fours, amplified scissors, and accordion reeds; other musicians contributing everything from thavil and gongs to trumpet and Wurlitzer; and the city itself sharing her air raid sirens at the tail end of “Green Heaven,” a piece originally composed for Deke Weaver’s play The Crimes and Confessions of Kip Knutsen: A Hockey Way of Knowledge. Growden includes several pieces, such as “1,000″ and “Inside Every Bird,” from his stage works, while taking the lyrics of “Devouring Time” from Shakespeare’s “19th Sonnet,” in the process giving Inside Beneath Behind the ruddy tone of Kurt Weill’s Berlin stage.

At times dark and dangerously drunken, at other times tender and mournful, Growden’s music paints pictures that expound on his careening words. The plaintive suggestion “Behind every word/ There’s another word/ Spoken softer/ And behind that word/ The sound of laughter” precedes an effusive sing-along and accordion march that would suit a fire-lit ballet of shattered crockery. Tales of self-destructive spiders with 72 eyes and little girls captured in stone, teapots, and undertow drop into hushed lullabies that would give pause to the Brothers Grimm. While Growden’s words read as abstractions, his music proceeds as a robust and bold narrative, with ample occasion for the listener to fill the cast from his own life.” by Silke Tudor

From the San Francisco Guardian

“You don’t usually find many people standing at the intersection of folk, cabaret, and experimental music, but Bay Area eccentric Mark Growden manages to draw a crowd to his little corner of the world. For this 12-song 45 minute follow-up to 1999′s memorable Downstairs Karaoke, the muti-instrumentalist-composer-singer recruited coproducer and recording engineer Myles Boisen to play various guitars (including Subwoofer Prepared Guitar), water faucet, and paper, Nils Frykdahl to sing and play PVC pipes and accordion reeds, and a host of others, including Jenya Chernoff, Karen Stackpole, Michael Mellender, Freddi Price, Chris Grady and Jim Santi Owen, to chime in on drums, gongs, horns whisks, basses violin and film-canister whirly. Their contributions augment what could otherwise be a one-man show as Growden ornaments his musical vision with bass, soprano sax, organ, bowed toy piano, accordion, prepared auto harp, banjo, and more. At the center of most pieces is Growden’s theatrical voice, a vehicle that leaps from reedy drones to yelping shouts and yodels. If this is beginning to sound like some sort of bizarre and noisy Tom Waits-Hal Wilner-Brecht and Weill project, think more bizarre and noisier. While you’re at it, throw in fresher and dreamier, especially for the atmospheric instrumental tracks. Growden’s fondness for oompah three-quarter time gives his most sinister soundtracks a disarming lilt, and even when he’s “Digging up Bones,” he’s wearing lace along with his leathers. It makes for a sight and sound you don’t want to miss”. By Derk Richardson

“Anything you can do, Mark Growden can do more disturbingly, especially with the help of the art rockers and creative music types who make up his Electric Piñata. Growden’s 1999 CD, Downstairs Karaoke, was a tour de force qua show of force, a demonstration that he and his fellow travelers could play pretty much anything they wanted-and did- but as such it was kind of all over the place. But the Electric Piñata’s new disc, Inside Beneath Behind, feels like a symphony of sorts, starting off with the sinister, moody waltz “Inside Every Bird” swaying between Growden’s accordion and sultry trumpet from Freddi Price of Rube Waddell.

The next tune, “1,000,” opens in a similar creepy but pretty vein, Alan Werner’s keyboards and Jenya Chernoff’s bowed cymbals a strange luminescence guiding us through a dark and imposing wood. But then that vein bursts open in a churning funhouse of Wurlitzer and accordion and Karen Stackpole banging a gong, with Growden emitting a trilling falsetto over his hyperventilating squeezebos as the other instruments close in like storm clouds.

Then there’s “9 Mouths” – starting like something out of the Peking Opera, with blaring sona and a reverberating water faucet, it soon reverts to a burbly, shimmer lullaby about a mutant spider, just the sort of thing that’d soothe any cannibal child to dreamland.

“Bones” is a sleepy, surreal blues in the Tom Waits mode, with Growden’s banjo trotting through territory dominated compellingly by Brian Kenney Fresno’s distorted guitar and Myles Boisen’s sobbing slide. “Green Heaven” feels like a delicate coda to “Bones,” Growden’s soprano sax joined in soft oompahs by Michael Mellender, Price, Chris Grady, and Werner on assorted horns, with birds and sirens in the background.

But then we move on to “Devouring Time,” Shakespeare’s 19th sonnet given a lush and scary “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” march treatment with spidery guitar (Boisen), bowed bass (George Cremaschi), and a flock of horns. After that, the fluttery interlude of Growden and Nils Frykdahl blowing on PVC pipes sounds positively pastoral.

Then all our old themes come back to haunt us: bass accordion and plunked guitar creep through a ghostly instrumental reprise of the first tune, before “Diggin’ Up the Bones” clatters out of the closet wailing like Marley’s ghost, Growden madly ululating and torturing saxes that sound like a horse being whipped, and Boisen playing electric guitar like a squeaky balloon, while Jim Santi Owen thumps a thavil. The sweet and sleepy “Sally” comes bubling gently in like Pink Floyd’s “Goodbye Blue Sky,” before we end where we began, Growden moaning the “la la la” chorus to “Inside Every Bird” and playing field organ as Boisen makes sounds with paper, and little Isabela Growden emits squeaky melismas.” By Sam Hurwitt

FORT WORTH WEEKLY

“Mark Growden’s a singer-songwriter from San Francisco, but don’t look for any flowers in his hair. No doubt about it, this cat’s out to lunch, especially at a place where you might see Tom Waits, Kurt Weill, and Sun Ra all sharing a corner booth.

Inside Beneath Behind, the new c.d. by Growden and his band, the Electric Piñata, is definitely the quirkiest disc I’ve heard since Destroy All Monsters’ Swamp Gas last year. But while that c.d. was an unlistenable hour-plus of “found sounds” and readings relating to a 1966 UFO sighting in Ann Arbor, Mich., (validating an arty composer bud’s assertion that “not everything is music”), Growden’s is such a damn seductive listen that it’s been stuck in my player since it followed me home a few nights ago.

Growden’s music is uncategorizable, but listening to Inside Beneath Behind, you’ll hear circus calliopes, Central European brass bands, warped Delta blues, avant-garde jazz, and moody psychedelia. He plays accordion, banjo, various saxes, and organ and makes ‘em all sound downright sinister. He writes twisted nursery rhyme-ish lyrics and delivers them in a voice that bears an uncanny resemblance to poor old Eddie Vedder (the man who introduced the inappropriate “rrrr” sound to so many words). On “Devouring Time,” Growden sets Shakespeare’s 19th Sonnet to music, kinda like the Fugs’ Ed Sanders used to do with Blake and Swinburne back in the Paleozoic Era.” By Ken Shimamoto

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