Music Reviews
Wendy Kraemer EP

Lithics Wendy Kraemer EP

(Moone Records) Rating - 8/10

The “rare demos/unreleased tracks” album isn’t always welcome. While for collectors or completists, the acquisition of long-omitted or lost material can be exciting, it’s often that the music itself is not. Quality rarely surpasses or meets the final product from either the songwriting or recording standpoint, and the inferred opportunism of such releases injects undeniable cynicism a lot of the time.

That said, I did get excited about the Wendy Kraemer EP, which is a reissued demo collection by the Portland art punk foursome, Lithics.

The Wendy Kraemer EP is a loose blueprint for the group’s second LP, 2018’s excellent Mating Surfaces. A combination of instrumental song fragments, unpolished demos, and other assorted audio now playable at 45RPM, this material had originally been recorded on cassette as a limited-edition rarity for anyone lucky enough to see Lithics during their tour of the west coast in 2017. Moone Records has issued this material as a 12” EP sans visible cuts in the wax or track listing, so each side plays like a medley whose sections were picked and sequenced at random. And this motif fits the recording. Honestly, as release info seems so purposely in absentia, I was happy that the A-side was at least noted on the label.

As far as the EP’s contents are concerned, I couldn’t help but feel that aural refinement might be unnecessary for this band. Obviously, the finished versions of the tracks that appear on Mating Surfaces are better produced and fully realized, but the under polish of Wendy Kraemer reveals dimension to the group’s creative thinking and confirms how well Lithics perform in a live space. From their metronomic bass throbs and their irregular drum patterns to vocalist/guitarist Aubrey Horner’s understated delivery, Lithics retains grit even when processed through a producer’s sound kidney. I found the live recordings captured on the EP pretty gratifying as companion to the Mating Surfaces LP as I felt like I was listening to a different, more chaotic version of it.

Without knowing every track or clip, identified on the A-side is a non-percussion version of Specs and a muffled Be Nice Alone, whose audio is so compressed it sounds like the band is playing to a tape-recorded drum loop. For the B-side, which is a tad more cohesive, enjoy some alternate takes on Excuse Generator, Cheryl, and Edible Door.