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Karl Blau

When the lo-fi rock movement which caught on during the 1990s, its exponents touted the music's spontaneity, humor, unfettered (though not naive) joy, and freedom from mainstream music's structures and constraints. Karl Blau (rhymes with "snarl now"), a sly and eclectic artist from Samish Island -- just across the water from the quiet indie rock hub of Anacortes, WA -- provides lovely evidence for all those lo-fi talking points. Getting the most out of limited resources, Blau creates offbeat tunes that are catchy but resolutely unconventional. Perhaps his recording budget is so modest because he spends all his money on records; while Blau maintains a solemnly goofy tone throughout his material, his stylistic nods are all over the map, ranging from late '60s sunshine pop to light funk to buoyant rocksteady reggae to '70s soft rock AM radio fare to jam rock and on. Running throughout it all is a loose, shambling sense of fun, as if all the songs were the product of a group of old friends kicking it in a living room full of instruments. Blau's high tenor is a nice accompaniment to the diverse instrumental fare, tuneful (but not overly so) and boyishly endearing.

Like so many lo-fi artists, Blau is alarmingly prolific, having amassed more than 15 tapes in less than a decade of bedroom recording. Three of these have seen release on Anacortes's Knw-Yr-Own, starting with 1997's Shell Collection, which offered the first glimpse of Blau's sweetly peculiar sound outside the Anacortes area. A Second Culling followed, and then Clothes Your I's. Blau has several other musical projects going, including an indie jam band called Captain Fathom and the wistful lo-fi folk-pop trio D+, with the Microphones' Phil Elvrum and ex-Beat Happener Bret Lunsford.

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