I expect even some of longtime Austin resident Nolan Green’s friends don’t know of his alter ego as the multi-instrumentalist wizard behind The Grassy Knoll. Since the nineties, long before he relocated here, Green has quietly sculpted sporadic recordings of (primarily) instrumental gems. Green composes like he’s writing pop songs — short, cohesive pieces with repetitive loops and hooks, imbued with more than a little menace and a love for guitar freak-outs (Thurston Moore and Vernon Reid are among his many collaborators). Part Jack Johnson-era Miles, part Dario Argento, he makes music too slippery for fusion, too thunderous for jazz, too edgy for chillout, too magnetic for soundtracks. After a twelve-year layoff, Green revived the Grassy Knoll in 2015 with Electric Verdeland, Vol. 1 and a stepped-up interest in vocal collaboration. That trend continues with EP01, a collaborative new four-song project somehow assembled in the least collaborative of times. “Reading My Furious Mind” begins with Psycho-like strings, a nerve-ending sax lead, and dramatic vocals from KUTX’s own Laurie Gallardo (!). The other vocal, from “There’s a Place in Hell Where My Nightmares Dwell,” is by My Jerusalem’s Jeff Klein. Klein’s nursery rhyme-like chorus breaks up his sinister narration, tempered by Chris Grady’s disembodied flugelhorn. It’s evocative and dark, but Green ups the emotional ante even higher on the pulse-pounding “Dead Rivers and Smokey Skies.” For better or worse, this is gripping music made for our times.
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Review by Jeff McCord