Sometimes a record label is just a group of people who pay for a band to record. Sometimes a record label is a giant conglomerate of varied artists with full PR support and advertising. And other times a record label is an organization dedicated to bringing great music to the public, defining themselves through a specific sound.
Polyvinyl Records has always had a definitive sound. Past groups like Mates of State and Rainer Maria, American Football and Braid have contributed just as much as current bands like Aloha, Matt Pond PA and Owen have helped to define the sound, like Motown and Stax from the `60s. Polyvinyl Records can always be described as having that something that sets these groups apart from others in the genre. And 31 Knots is no exception to the rule.
31 Knots does whatever it can to defy being defined easily with this latest release, earning comparisons to Tom Waits solely from their refusal to be pinned down to just one genre or instrumentation. From the opener "Beauty" and its heavily sampled beginning with near-shouted vocals to the closer "Walk with Caution" and its distorted background noise with lazy chanted backing vocals and stripped chimes on the measure, 31 Knots tackles shit you wouldn't even dare to.
Setting them apart instantly is their massive use of samples, creating track two "Sanctify" almost entirely from creepy carnival music (that turns out to be samples of Beethoven and Archie Shepp). "Sanctify" bleeds into Savage Boutique with a full horn section and a near calypso beat and dancing piano rhythms. Throughout the album, the vocals range from sweetly sung to near shout, conjuring up the early days of hardcore singers like Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins who never really screamed and still carried a note. Not to be pigeonholed, 31 Knots breaks out mathy, near metal riffs on "Man Become Me" and "Imatation Flesh " that comes later. But when you expect the song to explode into palm-muting and screaming, the band takes it back down and finds a more melodic chorus turning the song into something much more described as post-punk than hardcore. "The Salted Tongue" and "The Days and Nights of Lust and Presumption" carry on the angular guitar motif, with the later being a song of a sparse guitar hit only on the chord changes, stop-time style, with the vocals sung muted over it. In essence the track is a transition between the dreamy "Everything in Letters" (which could double as a marimba-only Aloha song) and the intensified "Imitation Flesh."
Though there's a definite rhythm to the track list, each song could be individualized as a single, and yet would be less important without the song that preceded it and follows it. In this fashion, The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere swirls around and into itself. The piece as a whole is sparsely orchestrated with hints of piano jazz and cabaret music, post-punk angular guitar riffs and keyed down melodies. I've listened to the album over and over again, and yet parts of it are still indescribable.