"A sci-fi / western crossover always seems awesome in theory. But actually pulling it off without verging beyond the acceptable realm of the ostentatious is another story. Where Cowboys & Aliens failed, DUENDE! has succeeded… and presumably on a smaller budget.
Their second LP, Florence to the Mad Man, will be released Saturday, August 27 at Small’s. Anyone who’s familiar with DUENDE! and lead singer Jeffery Scott’s record label, Loco Gnosis, is well aware of all the contributions and collaborations they’ve made to shake up the music scene over the past five years. It’s no surprise, then, that the album is cameo-studded with borrowed talent: Ray Thompson of The Oscillating Fan Club, Dustin Leslie of Dutch Pink, and Jennifer David of Illy Mack.
“Come Back,” the album’s opener, sets the stage for lovesick desert ramblings. Dreamy harmonies and a swelling harmonica lead make the track a compelling one. According to the band, “Come Back” contains lyrics from an unreleased Oblivions song (used with permission, of course), written by Greg Cartwright. The instrumentation is entirely the band’s own, though, and it shows, from the spur-jangling kick of the drums to the reverb-laden guitars.
In the same vein, “Deluge (Drinks of Thee)” explores the beauty in the melancholy, but at a more frantic pace. Pounding piano and psychedelic, far-reaching guitar leads contribute to a sense of madness. A refrain of whistling and vibraslap fits in to the retro-western vibe of the album; what’s really amazing is that the band can pull it off without sounding cheesy or fake. The tone seems to be straight out of a Sergio Leone film.
No doubt the sonic authenticity of the album is partly owed to producer Dave Feeny and Tempermill studios—anything recorded there testifies to quality and attention to detail. “Barefoot Bandit” and “Two Steps” are two standout tracks on the album, with layers of effects ranging from subtle phase shifters to distorted tremolo. Fuzzy guitars and spacey organs on “Bandit” build over the same bass riff to the point of mesmerizing expansion. A spooky-sounding theramin in “Two Steps” adds a Jetsons-esque atmosphere over a surfy beat. If the B-52s were cast in a spaghetti western, this is what it would sound like.
The title track and “Monks & Kings” are decidedly more contemporary, with glassy sounding guitars, and beat-heavy bass lines. The former is lined with gritty synth undertones, and the latter with a complementing horn section. At first impression, they don’t quite seem to fit the rest of the far-out psychedelic cowboy space-venturing of the other songs. But the songs are unified by the same drawn-out, wandering spirit and Jeff’s wailing vocals. Besides, what’s the appeal of a strictly one-genre LP, anyway?
The bang-bang, shoot-em-up feel of this album is equal parts campfire on the range and intergalactic go-go dance parties. Different as they may seem, there’s a sense of nostalgia there, and a sense of adventure. Maybe that’s what makes it work. Or maybe it’s just because DUENDE! is a really good band." MOTORCITYROCKS.COM
"Not so much outlaw country, more like outsider, or even Outer Limits ... see, Detroit quartet Duende singe the traditional twang of Western ballads with a psychedelic haze. Is it fierce and dazzling? Yes. Is it murky with a surf-rock ready rhythm? Yup. Do we hear UFO-like quavers of a theremin and the ridin'-the-rails wheeze of a harmonica? Of course.
Indeed, the album's a bit all over the place: "No Town's" swift and spacey hard hooks go up and at 'em, while reined-in toe-tapper's such as "Monks & Kings" dim the saloon's oil lamps to accentuate the eerie glow of the guitars. Vocals are belted out in raspy trills, with winks to blues, punkabilly and vaudeville.
The album's rustling jangle, grimy grooves and spooky atmospherics an acquired taste, but so's whiskey, or gumbo, and Florence is similar in that its technique, its character, goes down smoother with subsequent servings." - DETROIT'S METROTIMES 9/21/11