Mild High Club

Skiptracing (Stones Throw Records)

Contact Patrick Tilley about Mild High Club

Following on the mellow buzz generated on their 2015 debut album, Timeline, The Mild High Club returns this summer with their second full-length, Skiptracing. In just over a calendar year, it’s been quite the journey for Alexander Brettin, who is both founder and member of the Club. Hailing from the Midwest, Brettin grew up playing flute in the school band and wound up majoring in jazz studies in Chicago. But in 2012, an auspicious, westward-blowing wind brought Brettin out to visit Los Angeles, where he connected with the Stones Throw crew. Within a year, he had passed the early demos that would become Timeline onto Peanut Butter Wolf and made the move out west.

 

“The difference between Timeline and Skiptracing is detail,” Brettin said. In some cases, it also meant learning an important creative lesson: “I was stubborn with the process for Timeline; it took almost three years to let go of it.” That letting go ultimately gave Brettin freedom to go deeper into his own sound, as Skiptracing makes abundantly clear. “My perspective shifted in the sense that I became more self aware of musical tropes and clichés,” he said. Brettin admits that for the first Mild High Club album he resorted to vague lyrics so as to highlight the music itself. But for Skiptracing there’s both a heightened thematic aspect as well as more complex musical arrangements encasing it. In Brettin’s estimation, the album’s story arc is that of a “private investigator attempting to trace the steps of the sound and the spirit of American music.”

 

And in investigating the spirit of American music, The Mild High Club re-imagine AM radio hits as blasting in from a parallel universe, the sound of early 70s LA in a smog of sativa. If Todd Rundgren was the primary touchstone for Timeline, Brettin and band now look to the wry, trenchant wit of Steely Dan, gazing deep into the dark underbelly of sun-bright LA and coming away with a catchy song underpinned by slippery jazz phrasings. It’s a cosmic connection that tethers The Mild High Club to fellow sonic brethren like Ariel Pink, Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Connan Mockasin and more.

 

Dig deeper into the lyrics and imagery and that detective story slowly emerges. But it’s no simple whodunit? Instead, think The Long Goodbye, The Late Show, Chinatown, Night Moves or any early 70s inversion of the detective noir genre, where the gumshoe protagonist ultimately winds up investigating himself, navel-gazing so as to solve the ultimate mystery. Skiptracing is Philip Marlowe driving around LA listening to Caetano Veloso or that deleted scene in John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie where Cosmo Vitelli reads Cosmic Trigger.

 

In crafting Skiptracing, The Mild High Club have made an album that strikes a balance between the known and unknown aspects of art and creation. While Brettin sought to have complete control over the creation of the previous album, in opening up and allowing these creative variables in, he learned a valuable lesson that lies at the heart of Skiptracing itself: “When you wish upon the unknown, you might be surprised by the rewards.”

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