Biscuit Basin Or The Kangaroo Communique: A Bowl Of Genetically Modified Fruit
There were times when Pezzettino—the nom de plume of accordion-slinging Milwaukeean/Brooklynite Margaret Stutt—seemed more like a sentient press release than an actual musical concern. Unannounced in-office performances and online pleas for car-repair cash (all pre-Kickstarter, mind you) were the norm, as were minimalist YouTube covers and endless personal video diaries. Then came 2010’s excellent Lub Dub, an album that set aside the stunts and focused on Stutt’s knack for melody, songwriting, and stone-cold hooks.
That focus was sadly short-lived. More oddball videos followed, as did an impromptu and erratic concert in Cathedral Square. A subsequent press release (natch) announced the death of Pezzettino and the birth of the oddly named ZETI. To finish things off, Stutt decided it was high time to change her actual name. (She’s now Margaret Dearden, thank you very much.) Once again, it seemed that the music had given way to self-hype and publicity stunts.
So what to make of Dearden’s Biscuit Basin Or The Kangaroo Communique: A Bowl Of Genetically Modified Fruit, a four-track album of discarded demos from the waning days of Pezzettino? And why should we care? A quick answer to the second question: All proceeds from the sale of the album go to Milwaukee’s Sweet Water Foundation. As for the first question, Biscuit Basin stands as an intriguing peek inside a tireless, volatile artistic mind. Oh, and it’s really good. Opener “About Buffalo And Escaping The Storm” hammers home Dearden’s oft-stated mission of work for work’s sake—and hints at her exhaustion with her Pezzettino moniker—over little more than a drum machine. The lovely “About Figuring It Out” features some of Dearden’s finest vocal work to date, and the nakedly honest “About Leaving Milwaukee And Anyone Really” is as sad as it is hopeful. But Dearden saves the best for last with “About Midwest Heroes And Middle Class, Driving Across Iowa Into Nebraska.” Though clearly in its early stages, the song hews closest to the glitchy production that made Lub Dub such a welcome surprise, and succeeds as an epic, deeply-felt statement of purpose.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Biscuit Basin comes complete with a few bells and whistles, including a free iPhone game. It’s a short, charming diversion (“winning” the game simply leads you to ZETI’s Bandcamp page), though it does manage to touch on Dearden’s pet themes of loss, transformation, and change. That it pulls it off so nicely is anything but a publicity stunt—it’s work.