Next week, former Archers of Loaf leader Eric Bachmann will release a self-titled album through Merge Records. It's Bachmann's first LP since 2011 and the first album to sport his own name in a decade. The imaginative nine-song set is also the best work of Bachmann's career since the start of his former singer-songwriter outlet, Crooked Fingers, near the beginning of the millennium.
Speaking of that nom de plume, Bachmann decided to finish some business under that handle before delivering his new work. In January, Merge reissued the first two Crooked Fingers works, the self-titled debut and 2001's Bring on the Snakes. To commemorate the shows, Bachmann played both albums in their entirety at a show in New York and another at Durham's The Pinhook, a few blocks from Merge's headquarters.
Accompanied only by violinist Amanda Kapousouz and cellist Ward Williams, Bachmann was in clear command of the material, though he hadn't played many of these songs in years. His oaken baritone cracked a little lower than it did when he first sang these tunes, and given the minimal accompaniment, he transferred much of the song's dramatic churn and thrum to his guitar. But onstage, they still sparkled like onyx gemstones, full of sinister imagery and characters in search of any redemptional at all.
Local photographer and documentarian Jason Arthurs shot the Durham show on Merge's behalf. Below, watch Bachmann take on "Crowned in Chrome," the classic opener to the first album, often called, Swan, and "Carolina," a highlight from his new LP. And if the lighting seems strange, as if Bachmann is strumming to strobes, that's actually an ambulance outside The Pinhook, treating a woman who passed out four songs into the set. After a stay in the emergency room, she's thankfully fine.
We'll have a full Bachmann profile when he visits Cat's Cradle Back Room Saturday, April 16. Until then, enjoy these clips.