Record Review - 3 July 15 2004

David Grubbs is the average Joe of the indie avant-garde scene. He has geeked out with the best: Tony Conrad, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Jim O'Rourke (in Gastr del Sol) and so on. But through it all he's maintained a modest demeanor. A Guess at the Riddle, Grubbs' fourth full-length, employs the metronome precision and far-out folk/pop leanings that have long identified the favorite sons of his hometown Louisville, Ky. (e.g. Papa M, Palace, Shipping News et. al.). Rather than diving into experimental noodling, Grubbs' otherworldly adventures have put a snap in his sneakers that keeps him coasting even when treading through stormy weather.

A Guess at the Riddle is pop music for a rainy day. From the dreamy tones dripping from Grubbs' voice to the wilting guitar and piano melodies trickling throughout each song, there's less a feel of melancholy running through the recording as there is of confinement and contemplation.

Joined by longtime collaborator Rick Moody, avant-electro duo Matmos and a few others, Grubbs' "Knight Errant" and "A Cold Apple" open as refined pop numbers rooted in English lit 101. "The Neophyte" rolls in as an instrumental shower, cleansing any and all expectations, and "Rosie Ruiz" is a searing drone that signifies the dawn of a new day. The eschewed elements culminate with "Hurricane Season," a subtly shifting piece that encapsulates the climax to a humble and offbeat journey to the terrain from whence he began.

David Grubbs plays Eyedrum Wed., July 21. 9 p.m. $8.