The anti-folk movement is made up of artists who, despite the antagonistic name of their genre, are firmly rooted in the folk music tradition of the United States. Many, like well-known anti-folk ambassadors Moldy Peaches, are caustic and use nontraditional instruments.
Others, like Diane Cluck, take the Arlo Guthrie route: A guitar, a voice, and a story are all she needs to write difficult, emotionally complicated songs that hardly fit into the mainstream.
Appropriately enough, Cluck shies away from the spotlight and the music business. Despite having recorded four albums, she recently approved her first commercial release -- of 2003's Oh Vanille (ova nil). And even then, Important Records (home to Cluck's comrade and advocate, the similarly hard-to-typecast Devendra Banhart) was to distribute only a limited run of 500 hand-packaged CDs.
Cluck's unobtrusiveness reverberates throughout Oh Vanille (ova nil). In masking tape and construction paper bearing ballpoint pen and magic marker artwork, the CD is packaged like a lovingly constructed gift from an old friend. And inside is something just as comforting and exhilarating.
Cluck is a spare but lush songwriter. Her lilting voice accompanies a shy but capable acoustic guitar. Tinges of Joni Mitchell surround Cluck's music, and though she matches Mitchell's arpeggios, sonorous sweetness and general profundity, her songs are less urgent and more mellow.
Trained as a classical musician, Cluck has a clear understanding of tone and meter. Her use of wrenching discordant tones is poignant and brings out the sweetness and sheer prettiness of some of the other songs.
The strongest track on the album, "Easy to Be Around," turns the lovely and glib free verse into a vexing love song: "you belong to no one, you are easy to be around...we're one shadow made of mercury / we were two until we boiled down / now you're easy to be around."
-- Bettina Swigger
Diane Cluck, with Pale Room and Jack Medicine and the Manitou Mustangs
Optical Reverb, 2125 Sinton Road
Friday, July 9, 6-9 p.m.
Tickets: $5, or $4 for KRCC members; call 210-9799 for more.