Ultimate DIY: Unknown Component, June 5 at Mojo’s Print
Music - Feature Stories
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Wednesday, 04 June 2008 02:59

Keith LynchThe first thing you're likely to notice about Keith Lynch's voice is that it often sounds like Kurt Cobain's.

Such comparisons are typically lazy and superficial, as this one is. But the Iowa City-based singer/songwriter - who records under the name Unknown Component and will be performing at Mojo's on Thursday - taps into something genuine with that flat whine, and the resemblance is eerie.

On the song "Under the Gun," that voice is bitter and condescending on the one hand but also hopeful and pleading - enigmatic but not coy. The verse lines are two syllables apiece - "I am / the one / under / the gun" - and Lynch loads each with an almost painful emphasis.

It ain't artful, but it works, and Unknown Component has plenty of similarly real moments.

If you don't believe me, Lynch has put his entire discography on his Web site for free download. He did that a few months ago, and "I should have started doing that right when I started the Web site," he said last week. "It's not costing me anything to let people download these songs for free."

Lynch is essentially embracing the new music marketplace, in which bands make their music available for free in some form and let audiences choose. "It really becomes a matter of who's got the best music," he said. He hopes that people who like what they hear will come back to pay for his next record.

Unknown Component's output thus far has an impressive volume: five proper albums and a collection of previously unreleased material, all from the past six years.

The ultimate DIY artist, Lynch writes, performs, records, and mixes all his own stuff - the lo-fi production and the standard instrumentation are a bit wearying after a handful of tracks - and has also done most of his cover artwork. "I don't think I'm that easy to work with sometimes," said the 27-year-old, without lightness.

Keith Lynch His philosophy is that an independent artist can do well for himself if he has realistic expectations - if wants to earn a living instead of become rich. He's not making enough to quit school or his job yet, but he's working on it.

He sent his Separately Connected disc to every college radio station he could find, and got airplay on 64 stations, he said. His music has appeared in two films. And he plans to send out his upcoming record, due in the fall, to alternative-weekly newspapers and college stations across the country. So he's persistent, too.

That wouldn't matter if the music weren't good, and skimming his catalog's entirety reveals a mixed bag, ranging from the skittering, difficult-period-Radiohead-like "Over Years & Miles" to the straightforward guitar and piano lament "Good Intentions II" to the jaunty "Being Awake."

They're hit-and-miss, likely a function of working almost exclusively alone. "A lot of the time, I don't even know what the good songs are myself," Lynch admitted when discussing the difference between album tracks and the leftovers that populate his "unreleased" collection.

There's also growth. Last year's Separately Connected - which includes "Under the Gun" - is consistently strong. It is neither complicated nor particularly distinctive, but it hits its confessional-rock-and-roll marks with aplomb. The title track is a refreshing departure, more mechanical in its synthesized instrumentation and more ethereal in its vocals.

And even if he's not getting feedback from other people while he's putting together his records, he's still got an audience. "Even if there's no one else in the room, it's almost like looking in a mirror," Lynch said. "There's still something coming back."


Unknown Component will perform on Thursday, June 5, at Mojo's inside the River Music Experience. The performance starts at 7 p.m.


For more information, visit (http://unknowncomponent.com).

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