Aural Fixation: Aj Woods And The Fence

Cassette Release Party At Guild Cinema

Geoffrey Plant
5 min read
AJ Woods and The Fence
AJ Woods (Via Youtube)
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I’m rummaging around the Plant basement looking for something specific, coming across forgotten, half-finished projects, artifacts from the past. Some of the broken furniture, fishing gear and old toys slow my search. These items lead down a shady lane of “remember whens” filled with friendships, secret victories and funny stories. Other junk in the basement—including the beat up Kenwood cassette deck that is the object of this subterranean mission—trigger more hazardous memories that coalesce upon more recent events, clogging up the filters in my mind to the point where rummaging doesn’t just get a bit distracted, it gets stuck. Hoping to resolve this situation I finally drag the cassette deck upstairs and hook it up. The only way to hear this album I’ve got is with a tape player.

The Fence, released by Colorado DIY cassette tape label, Tinyamp Records, is the latest by local singer-songwriter AJ Woods—a musician who’s recent, low stakes Movement in the Grass led me to compare him to Neil Young and Bill Callahan (Smog). The same review noted that Woods’ music stands out from the pack of Americana/folk rock musicians in the Albuquerque area. His compositions and style are very much his own. Perhaps this results from Woods’ beginnings in punk bands like The Young Ones, only later gravitating away from music where loud amps and feedback polish the less finished edges toward a sound where players’ deficiencies or inauthenticity quickly become apparent. Woods’ chops are grade A, his songs are worthy of a Drag City release; the musicians who back him are some of the best from the Albuquerque folk-rock scene.

The 10 tracks on
The Fence deal with the more hazardous class of memories and heavy life experiences that, without an outlet, can mire one in hopelessness and the morass of depression. The 28-year-old Woods said the tunes on The Fence “are basically a long-exposure of the past 10 years of my life”. At the age of 16, his mother passed away. Woods’ “ideas of what mattered in life changed; I started putting more energy into music than anything else. It shifted my direction in life.” The themes and tone are drawn from the emotional side of life—and a side of life specific to our big small town. “Every couple years in this town I witness something that shocks me; since I go through this kind of tragedy-and-loss experience every couple of years I have to have an outlet. The other day a friend and I were at the skate park on Third Street and I-40 and this woman got shot—and may have been killed—right in the middle of the skate park. Might have to write a song for that woman ….”

From the haunting, three-chord groove of “Sun and Moon” to existential lyrics like “Nature does its own thing/though you think you know shit, and then you don’t … you’re the one who pissed against the wind/and the wind is the winner again” in “Making Plans Alone Against The Wind”, Woods’ songwriting on
The Fence is some of the best of 2016. Physically tiny, yet massive in content, this cassette is also the impetus behind the most interesting sounding record release party so far this year.

Inspired by a performance by Hisao Shinagawa that followed a documentary about the radical Japanese activist and singer-songwriter at the Guild Cinema, Woods approached the owners of Albuquerque’s independent art-house cinema about having his own show there.
Alibi readers can look forward to a late night cassette release with a performance by AJ Woods, backed by musicians from Wildewood. The music will be preceded by a reading by author George Christopher Moreno, whose real-time, first-person story “An Encounter,” calls to mind a less abstract James Joyce and whose work has been called “Beckettian” by the LA Times. You know you want to investigate that descriptor.

Local photographer Johnny Gomez—who snapped the beautiful photos gracing the cover and inside of
The Fence—will be projecting his work on-screen before and during the reading and musical performance, making this a not to be missed multi-media extravaganza. In addition to beer cozies, key chains, patches, this new cassette and other releases on sale by Woods, Gomez will have prints available for purchase. There will be popcorn and Goobers in the lobby.

Just the idea of enjoying this from the cushy comfort of a theater seat should be enough to draw the attendance of fans of local fiction, art lovers and folk-rock freaks. Who knows when there will be another event like this? So truck on down to the Guild Cinema on Friday, April 8, at 11pm, and catch three artists whose crafts represent the primary art forms that conspire to make a movie: storytelling, photography and music. The night promises to be somewhat of a deconstructed film based on the more dark and hazardous experiences in life, courtesy of AJ Woods and friends.

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