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Destroyer Deliver is Zeb Gould and company’s latest journey through the bucolic. The follow up to their 2014 Dying Waves album, Destroyer Deliver is an Americana masterwork that divvies up the shadow and the light, pitting them against each other from song to song and story to story. The result is indie-style gloom-folk meets sweet fingerpicking prairie-bliss, a post-Millenium take on melancholic wasteland love.
Recorded within the vaulted former church walls of upstate New York's Dreamland Recording Studios (The National Sufjan Stevens, Beach House, Fleet Foxes) the lushly orchestrated world of Destroyer Deliver was engineered and mastered by Sam Crawford, Gould’s frequent collaborative partner. The sound of the record is built around the three-part vocal harmony of Gould, Elizabeth de Lise, and Jeff Hudgins. These vocal textures and Gould’s gentle acoustic guitar and banjo are interwoven with the violin of Megan Gould (Zeb’s wife and a performer and arranger in her own right with the likes of Lou Reed, Natalie Merchant, and David Byrne). Vocalist Hudgins adds even more warmth to the sound of the group with his clarinet and saxophone performances. Jerome Begin expands the timbral range of the ensemble with his fluid mix of piano, Wurlitzer, Mellotron, vibraphone, and Vox Combo organ. Christian Rutledge (drums) and Crawford (bass) round out the septet to bring atmosphere and rhythm to Destroyer Deliver's rich harmonic sound.
A one-time New York City resident turned Kingston, New Yorker, Gould’s departure from the city has done little to lessen his influence as a local indie artist. Continued work with his bandmates led to the group's contribution to a 2019 downtown stage production of Sam Shepard’s famed play Fool for Love, where material from Destroyer Deliver served as the moody live-score.
In much the same way that Shepard’s plays explored the New West and Flannery O’Connor reimagined the Southern Gothic, the focus of Gould’s songs on Destroyer Deliver deal with a mythologized Midwest—his passion for storytelling woven into each of the album's eight tracks.
The album’s opener “Panther on the Mountain” is an anthropomorphic ode to the imagination—working like an emotional timeline buzzing with the album's signature vocal harmonies and capped with Megan Gould's fluttering violin arrangements. Standout track “The Arsonist” is a heart-sick pyro’s serenade ripped from the 80s soundscape that shuttles the listener back in time with its saxophone-laced slow-build cacophony. “Hearts Like Ours” features the handclap-propelled call and response vocal harmonies of de Lise taking on the roll of Gould’s reality checker. A jangly doo-wop, with familiar Ronnie Spector textures, it’s a blood and guts Badland-ballad fit for shaky barn dancing.
The sweeping album is available with an accompanying illustrated collection of Gould's short stories as well as the record’s lyrics, marking the first time that Gould has coupled his musical explorations with his literary endeavors. The book has been designed to be read in tandem with the music. This union of stories and songs invites each form to illuminate the other, and the juxtaposition allows Gould and his bandmates to plumb new depths of narrative richness rarely seen in Americana music. The characters in Gould’s work inhabit a world where color commentators and arsonists alike wait for great storms to pass over the lakes and raceways of the Rust Belt. In the stories of Destroyer Deliver, he has created the sort of place where Death can show up as a drummer packs up after a gig and where profound answers to profound questions can be found waiting in a booth at the 1982 World’s Fair. The volume also features a cover illustration by William Schaff, the creator of iconic album covers for Jason Molina and Okkervil River.
The wide gamut of tones and emotions on Destroyer Deliver draws attention to the simple beauty of human beings playing music in a room together. For fans of Neil Young, Gillian Welch, Bill Callahan, and other poets of Americana, Destroyer Deliver is a sonic and literary feast.
Since moving to NYC from Indiana in 2003, Zeb Gould has released several critically-acclaimed albums both under his own
name, as well as under the monikers of Bowery Boy Blue and Swojens. His earlier works fall under the genre of acoustic guitar instrumental (In the vein of John Fahey), while his later output, falls within the realm of indie folk singer/songwriter (akin to Will Oldham, etc.)...more