GODKILLER, Suah Sounds,  ★★★★

In the nineties, the lo-fi recordings of Bill Callahan under the moniker Smog toed the line between alt-country and harsh homespun experimentation. Alongside contemporaries like Cat Power, Scout Niblett, and Dirty Three, Callahan reveled in dichotomies, perversely amused to combine a lovely melody with obliviating distortion or a whiplash-inducing threat like “I’m gonna be drunk, so drunk, at your wedding.”

It’s easy to hear a bit of Callahan’s mix of sweet and sour in GODKILLER, the latest release by Durham’s astoundingly prolific Al Riggs, who, at last count, has released more than eighty albums and singles on Bandcamp. Riggs has a similarly unadorned speak-sing delivery and excels at exploring the polarities of sonics and emotions with the anchor of this authoritative voice.

On opener “The Deer In The Forest” (a reference to touchstone Arthur Russell, who likely would have appreciated the aesthetic Riggs calls “Sad Queer Songs and Sometimes Angry Queer Songs”), Riggs tensely plucks their guitar over the sounds of a train screeching into an unseen station. Riggs begins to strum a grooving melody, then states plainly “time will not save my work/time will work against it all.” They continue with koan-like phrases that eventually layer over one another in a violent culmination.

GODKILLER features saxophonist Matt Douglas on one track, but was otherwise recorded alone by Riggs in their living room. While this is not an unusual set up for Riggs, this album feels particularly intimate. Sounds may shift and mutate, but a thick discontent and vulnerability are palpable throughout. A highlight of the album is the heartcrushing “Gender Reveal Party,” which combines the choogling caginess of Cass McCombs, the atmospheric bleakness of Grouper, as well as more tender moments. On the whole, GODKILLER is a seductive record, by an artist whose already impressive momentum shows no signs of waning.