[OTHERWORLDLY FOLK] Loch Lomond and the Builders and the Butchers might seem an odd couple. The former plays idyllic, expansive chamber folk, the latter stripped-down punk-blues. But these seemingly disparate groups share two commonalities: Both have dark sides, and both could be from alternate universes. The Builders and the Butchers play rock 'n' roll as invented during the Great Depression; and while it's hard to pin down where Loch Lomond's world diverged from ours, its music seems like it's based on a history the rest of us didn't experience. And the bands' untitled split LP is a great demonstration of their shared otherworldliness.
Loch Lomond's Side A features two unreleased songs and two (remastered) tracks off the group's recent full-length, Paper the Walls. The recurring tracks, "Field Report" and "Scabs on This Year" are good choices for reproducing on vinyl. But new tracks "Elephants and Little Girls" and "The Trumpet Song" not only outshine the reproductions—they're worth the price of the album ($10) alone. "The Trumpet Song" is an especially gorgeous end-piece; effeminate singer Ritchie Young and his chorus sound so vast repeating "I am the world's loudest instrument" that you almost believe them.
On Side B, the Builders and the Butchers chose to collect several unreleased songs all focusing on one of the band's favorite themes: water. Opener "When It Rains" lulls you into expecting a much more mellow band during its first verse—before smacking you with rapidfire snare pounding, cavalry-charge trumpet and mariachi castanets; it's the most badass song the Butchers currently play (which is a pretty bold statement if you've ever seen them live). It's followed by an excellent version of "Vampire Lake" that features the band's typical mandolin, banjo, violin and trumpet each rising out of and returning to the layered composition. But the Butchers' side of the LP is unfortunately arranged in order from strongest to weakest song: "Down to the River" is a slower number that works best as a palate cleanser in the middle of a driving Butchers set, while "The Rain" (which sounds out of place among the rest of the band's catalog) ends the record on a somewhat whiny note.
In all, the split record shows that the two bands' sounds actually, unexpectedly compliment each other quite well. In fact, it's as if Loch Lomond is the flip side of the pennies on the Builders and the Butchers' macabre eyes—and vice versa.
The Builders and the Butchers and Loch Lomond celebrate the release of their split 12-inch Friday, Nov. 30, with Autopilot and the Night at Slabtown. 9 pm. Free. 21+.