Moviola Broken Horses Spirit of Orr

A pillar of the celebrated local underground rock community and yet entirely outside of any "scene" beyond the basements and attics that gave birth to their songs, Moviola is a unique presence in Columbus music. Since sprouting up as Columbus' foremost slack-rockers, they've grown into back-porch pop luminaries, but listening to Broken Horses, that stylistic shift seems more like a change of clothes than a change of heart. The rarities collected here, 23 songs dating from 1994-2001, fit together snugly. Although this is by no means a complete document, it sums this band up terrifically.

Moviola Broken Horses Spirit of Orr

A pillar of the celebrated local underground rock community and yet entirely outside of any "scene" beyond the basements and attics that gave birth to their songs, Moviola is a unique presence in Columbus music. Since sprouting up as Columbus' foremost slack-rockers, they've grown into back-porch pop luminaries, but listening to Broken Horses, that stylistic shift seems more like a change of clothes than a change of heart. The rarities collected here, 23 songs dating from 1994-2001, fit together snugly. Although this is by no means a complete document, it sums this band up terrifically.

Formed at the tail end of the city's early 90s indie/punk salad days, in full bloom during the less fruitful turn-of-the-millennium period known as "The Slump" and foreshadowing the scuzz-pop that would divert the ears of the underground (what you kids call the blogosphere) back to Ohio, they could be seen as one of the few active threads between the heydays of Anyway Records and its modern counterpart, Columbus Discount. Yet the band they've become over that time—and arguably the band they've always been—refuses to conform to that lineage.

Sure, they used to share stages with the likes of Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments and material here retroactively channels Psychedelic Horseshit ("Rockbottom Falls") and low-key Times New Viking ("Half as Long"), but from my admittedly late vantage point, Moviola always seemed to inhabit their own little universe, or at least their own corner of whatever consensus of consciousness we all share.

Gaunt, New Bomb Turks and other raucous greats birthed from the Used Kids culture of the early 90s were no-nonsense punk bands—literate and clever, yes, but defined mostly by their ability to rock your face off. Moviola, on the other hand, were slipshod indie rockers through and through, standing squarely in the shadow of Stephen Malkmus. 1995's "Convenient Store" sounds plenty slanted and enchanted, while the live rendition of "Bank Machine" from 1994 sounds like they had just picked up Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and were obsessing over "Unfair." Other Columbus bands might have been mining this territory at the time, but none that have endured long enough in practice or reputation to make their mark on a youngster like me.

Anyone introduced to this band with last year's superb Dead Knowledge knows these days Moviola sounds closer to The Band or The Dead than Pavement. Broken Horses stops several years short of the present day (sequel please?), but the latter tracks, particularly Jerry Dannemiller tunes like 2001's "St. Vincent," show the beginnings of late period Moviola—gracefully aged and more comfortable than sloppy.

This compilation ties those eras together beautifully with a collection of songs that shows, despite a few outliers, a basic unity from this group's Old to New Testaments. 1997's "Signals Crossed" lays a blanket of rudimentary indie guitar over a pleasant sighing ditty that wouldn't sound out of place on Dead Knowledge, while splendid album closer "Evil Knievel Balls," one of the album's most indie-rockin' selections, comes with a soft-spoken drawl that could just as easily have been dressed up in the band's latter day rustic charm.

In the liner notes, local rock cult of personality Ron House weighs in on Broken Horses with a nostalgic sigh. "We are happy now with our families and Power Tools," he concludes. "But at 1AM once something happened that is still inexplicable." Even for someone like me who wasn't there (and let's face it: most of us weren't), this collection comes off that way. Listening to these tracks, I'm whisked away to magical late-night recording sessions and implanted with borrowed memories of lazy summer drives, sweat beads forming on foreheads, cassette dubs of this music drifting out the windows.

Lots of old Columbus music transports me like that, but none of it feels quite like this. Moviola is part of that ever-growing Columbus tapestry, but they bring something peculiar and wonderful to the table that no one else has contributed. It's less of a sound than a feeling. While much of the great Columbus rock comes off as angry and hopeless, this music exudes a glimmer of light at least bright enough to illuminate life's little pleasures and enjoy them while they last. More than any sonic factor, that spirit unifies Moviola's body of work, and it lingers through this remarkable compilation from start to finish.

Broken Horses is available in a limited edition through Spirit of Orr.