Somewhere across the valleys and hills, beyond “the sticks” and the cities, there’s a spark forever glimmering in the distance, a creative energy that burns ever bright. It’s the essence that informs Maxshh, the solo project of Hadley, MA’s Max Goldstein (Tundrastomper, Fred Cracklin, EIEIEIO), a musician whose experimental edge and endless creativity is paralleled by a poetic freedom and deep compositional introspection. After several releases with the great Sad Cactus Records, Maxshh has joined Exploding In Sound Records to share his latest album, Bonus Flowers, due out September 24th. While the core of the record was written several years ago, it took a pandemic and “a compromise between a limited instrumental palette and an unkempt imagination” to bring it to life. As one of the underground’s most prodigious drummers, Maxshh has become an outlet for Goldstein to explore beyond the kit, proving himself to be impeccably gifted in every facet. Bonus Flowers is his “acoustic” album, one that found itself a product of circumstance. It’s a beautiful reflection of self and an expansion of inward thoughts.
Back in 2018, upon moving out to a beautiful 1800s farm house, Goldstein found himself with a bedroom that opened to a wraparound porch, where he spent every summer evening playing acoustic guitar in a rocking chair, watching the sun set over sprawling green and an adjacent corn field. As a result, Goldstein noted that “these chord progressions and riffs evoke that youthful feeling of possibility - new environment, new relationships.” As the pandemic began in the Spring of 2020, he had just traveled to California, about to begin an artist residency and record a brand new, dauntingly complex batch of material. With quarantine looming however, Goldstein raced back to Western MA, having barely played a note. Following a long trip across the country and back again, he quickly released Maxshh’s length debut, Half A Loaf.
Mere days after finishing that record, one of his roommates actually got COVID (they’re fine thankfully), and Goldstein and his roommates entered a two week, no-bedroom-leaving isolation at home. With nothing to do and only the tools in his bedroom (basically just acoustic guitar and a computer), he realized it could be a good time to revisit those porch recordings. The prevailing mood was decidedly not an optimistic one. Not only was he dealing with the abject terror of pandemic inside and outside the house, there was an uncertainty about creating another worthwhile batch of songs, since he had just completed several albums in the previous months. Continuing to feverishly record by himself though was the only way to stay sane and distracted from a growing matrix of potential infection points.
Being confined to his bedroom for the recording process has lent a soft nature to the songs on Bonus Flowers, but this acoustic album takes its fare share of turns into the noisy and experimental world that Maxshh more often than not lives in. There are moments of wild sonic abandon, pinched harmonics, complex layering, electronic shifts, and of course, the occasional stampede of drums. The sparsity of the rhythmic flourishes only strengthen their impact, every hit and shifting time signature landing with colossal importance. While feeling spent after completing two full length albums in about two months time (Half a Loaf and 2021’s Feedback & PB), Goldstein took inspiration from poetry books provided by his partner, repurposing portions into lyrics and as influence for his own reflections.
The shape of Bonus Flowers as described by Maxshh revolved around “taking stock of and feeling grateful for one’s surroundings—the (often unread) books on the nightstand, the art in the living room, the trees in the backyard, the birds in those trees.” Since he only left his basement bedroom to use the bathroom and prepare meals while recording this music, he says “even the teeniest moments of variance became poetic highlights of the day. This practice was nourishing in its own right, but it was also a sympathetic totem for recording—savoring these sparse arrangements, comparatively simpler but no less satisfying than what I would ordinarily do.”
From out of the tension and cold of the winter and the pandemic, Maxshh created something warm and optimistic. The thaw of spring. The rush of nature. Bonus Flowers.