(Little Ramona Records)
The Carrboro, North Carolina-based duo WAUMISS traces its roots back to Florida, to a series of early-Nineties Tampa and St. Petersburg bedrooms that produced many beautifully skewed pop songs. The musicians who comprise WAUMISS became two of many who wandered beyond their original Florida circle, but remained tightly knit with the rest of that scene via their base label, defiantly named Screw Music Forever.
The little label became an umbrella for sharing music and visual art in Florida in those days. Co-founded by members of the band Home and Tim Kearly, Screw Music Forever released records by its founders and friends -- Home, Dumbwaiters, Meringue, Pee Shy, and Leels among the most nationally prominent. Any band was welcome to use the brand Screw Music Forever, and those that did often helped each other release singles and organize shows. Their visual artist friends created cover art and flyers, and other associates recorded the music or brought their projections to roll at shows as the bands played.
Clarque Blomquist, one half of WAUMISS, played in this scene as part of the band Gossamer, before moving to North Carolina in 1998. Blomquist says his years in Florida were a heady, if tumultuous, time. These were the years when folks were lazily using the term "lo-fi" to describe some type of marketable sound, while SMF regulars considered it merely a descriptor for their recording methods.
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"It seemed to me that something really special was going on: a new breed of weird, arty bands with affection for psychedelic music and classic rock, and a totally D.I.Y. sensibility about recording and putting out their own music," says Blomquist, whose wife, Caroline, makes up the rest of WAUMISS. "It was refreshing, and I was inspired."
WAUMISS is now part of a very extended family, since the SMF scene splintered from Florida across the country in the Nineties. The band's self-titled debut, available on vinyl or by download, hovers in the overlap between dreamy pop and the fuzzy edges of psychedelia. On "Nightingale," a minimal setting of keyboards, guitar and beats, there's the loopy atmosphere of psych-pop, but without the overindulgence. The melody is neatly buried under a sheet of haze, so that a dream effect allows one to nod off with the song's forward motion. It's like looking at a photo with the subject tucked into one corner: Your focus remains in the frame.
-- Chris Toenes