Reviews

fulfilled/complete

Author: Kate Kiefer
09/24/2004 | Washington Square News | www.nyunews.com | Feature
Amidst a spell of boredom a few years ago, Joel Petersen of dancy New Wavers the Faint decided to record the soundtrack to a friend's video piece. He liked the results, grew some sort of a mullet and made an experimental side project out of it.

Petersen called the Omaha improv band Broken Spindles, but the short-lived group didn't amount to much other than a cool name that Petersen kept in his back pocket for future reference.

"I always thought [Broken Spindles] was a great name, and it captured the spirit of something that I always appreciated ... an interruption in the flow of something," Petersen said in the dressing room before a packed show at Brooklyn's North Six.

Influenced by artists like Sonic Youth, Agent Orange, Metallica and Slayer, Broken Spindles began as a completely instrumental project. After a self-titled debut album that stuck to the instrumental creed, Petersen decided to add vocals to his follow-up on Saddle Creek Records, fulfilled/complete.

"I was just working on a new [track] and the vocal line came to me rather than anything else," he said. "It wasn't a bass line that popped into my head but a vocal line, so I just went with it."

At that point, he began to make a conscious effort to incorporate words into his music. In addition to the vocals and electronic sounds, several "real" instruments, such as a hammer dulcimer, a string quartet, a piano and an electric guitar, appear on the new record.

Petersen managed to tear big-shot producer Mike Mogis away from our favorite bright-eyed boy from Omaha - Conor Oberst - long enough to create fulfilled/complete, a record perfect for MIDI-loving folks who can live without catchy hooks or consistent vocals. Combining sparse classical and electronic techniques with lots of percussion, Petersen focuses on the way organic string and piano sounds fuse with dim electronics.

the result: Music that will please diehard Nine Inch Nails fans and classy country clubbers alike. "Fall In and Down on" is a keyboard-heavy power song for black-nail-polish-wearing, red-light-running bastards, while the piano-driven "Song No Song" is perfectly suitable for Bingo night at the senior center.

Like many of his indie rock brethren, Petersen jumped on the slideshow train this year. He brought a video projector on tour this summer to accompany his live show. Petersen and his tour partner stood to the side of the stage, playing guitars and pressing buttons in the dark, while a film played - man wakes up, man goes to work, man gets lost, man finds his way - standard avant garde fare.

"A video seemed like the right thing to do, so I just wrote a storyline," Petersen said. "I worked with a friend of mine ... I hope you like it. I'm happy with it."

Petersen's project is quite an unexpected departure from the Faint, but his bandmates are especially supportive and usually the first to hear new Broken Spindles material. So far, he doesn't seem to be struggling to give both projects the attention they deserve.

"If I felt like I did, then something would have to give, but I feel like I try to give everything I do everything I have," he said.

If nothing else, Petersen proves there are definitely exceptions to the rule that says side projects always suck.
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