Brian Carpenter is a hard man to pin down – in several senses. For one, there’s the fact that he always seems to be juggling several projects at once. Then there’s the eccentric diversity of those projects, each of them uncategorizable in their own right and seemingly adrift in time. He originally made his name as the leader of Beat Circus, an ensemble that sounded like a circus’ resident jazz band and a Tom Waits-infected folk band riding parallel roller coasters in an abandoned carnival somewhere in the Gothic south. He then started the Ghost Train Orchestra, a jazz big band that sics modern Brooklyn jazz players on vintage charts from 1920s and ‘30s Harlem and Chicago. He’s also worked in radio and the theater in similarly genre-defying fashion.
Carpenter’s latest release is The Far End of the World, the debut release by his band The Confessions, which will play Kung Fu Necktie on Saturday. In some ways it’s his most traditional band, with original songs played by a band focused on guitar, bass and drums. But that’s grading on a curve; these are haunted-twang tales of loss and woe drawing on chamber pop, sea shanties, and old-timey folk in their most haunting representations, all shrouded in a cinematic melange of strings, theremin, organ, and nyckelharpa. Carpenter has cited Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas as a point of departure, and the album certainly captures that film’s sense of mournful loners adrift in a uniquely American desert blighted with the detritus of pop culture and folk mythology. For tickets and more information on Saturday’s show, consult the XPN Concert Calendar.Brian Carpenter, Kung Fu Necktie