Vertical Slit Live at Brown’s LP

An archival live recording that is almost weird to review because if you’re already in the cult of the elusive Jim Shepard, you’ll likely be picking this up regardless. But as someone merely Shepard-curious, this recording doesn’t do justice to the real oddball home-recorded stuff. What Live at Browns brings to the table is Shepard’s band doing a set—a total statement, not just the compiled tunes previously available on past releases. Which is cool, but for me, it’s those more intimate, sketchy, and loopy recordings that sound like they are decomposing before your ears that sound so ahead of their time. For example, on “Fair Exchange” from Slit and Pre-Slit, a compilation of ’70s VERTICAL SLIT recordings, the music reminds me of early, cassette-recorded DANIEL JOHNSTON, if not in style, in fidelity and outsider eeriness. Live at Browns’ “Fair Exchange,” here as “Fair Exchange/Maid in Heaven,” comes off a bit more like straightforward rock with its guitar licks and more conventional vocal attack. Most inspired is the recording of “Smudge” which improves on the previous version from And Beyond, taking on a SABBATH-tinged stoner metal vibe. There is only so much material out there, and if you missed it (and pretty much all of us missed it), here’s a chance to catch it in its full glory—especially if you’re a completist.