“I move around a lot, not because I’m looking for anything, really, but because I’m getting away from things that get bad if I stay. Auspicious beginnings, you know what I mean?” So says Jack Nicholson’s Bobby Dupea to his semi-comatose father in 1970’s Five Easy Pieces. It’s a moment that finds Nicholson’s character at his most raw and vulnerable, attempting to explain a blue collar and impermanent lifestyle to a man he knows would never approve. It’s also a moment that pops up in Mussel Memories Workout Challenge, the delightful new release from Stumblesome, the delightful old project of Milwaukee rapper/artist/filmmaker WC Tank.
Tank used the Stumblesome moniker between 2003-10, chalking up full-length releases with names like The Bubble Shell People Chain Change and On The Insides Of The Sprawling Fences Of Southwestern Wisconsin. Unlike the eccentric art-rap for which he would later be known, Tank’s music under Stumblesome focused mainly on instrumental, sample-heavy collage with a chilled-out hip-hop bent. That aesthetic holds true with Mussel Memories, an endlessly fascinating, Russian nesting doll-esque album that liberally samples from sources as disparate as films like Five Easy Pieces and 1969’s Mr. Freedom, to a photography tutorial, Allen Iverson’s infamous “practice” rant, and a Jane Fonda workout tape. It’s The Beatles’ “Revolution 9,” but with a beat you can dance to.
Tank tells us he’ll be releasing music as Stumblesome “for the foreseeable future,” and that his WC Tank name will be “less about rap and more about my acting, filmmaking, and writing career.” Befitting a man who moves around a lot, Tank recently acted in an upcoming Kurt Raether short film called Pheasants, directed a new video for Serengeti, and is releasing a book of poetry later this year. Stumblesome may be an old project, but Mussel Memories Workout Challenge represents an auspicious beginning.
Stumblesome will play an all-ages show at the Jazz Gallery Saturday, May 21. Dad, Dirty Dumster Boyz, and Moonchyld are also on the bill.