Mike Griffin's Parashi project has never been an easy one to pin down as far as expectations go. While never predictable, the material was usually abstract and not musical in the conventional sense, existing somewhere on a continuum between harsh noise and less abrasive, almost early Cabaret Voltaire like treatments of tapes and effects. For Vinegar Baths, he certainly retains these elements, but the emphasis is on guitar, bass, and surprisingly, vocals.
It is possible that this shift was precipitated by Griffin's role as guitarist in the upstate NY rock supergroup Sky Furrows, or perhaps motivated by something else entirely. A song like "Letters in the Wrong Order" straddles the line between music and noise, with abstract guitar and noisy loops establishing a foundation, but with Griffin's vocals and more conventional guitar added it feels like an attempt at folk music with the wrong instrumentation, and I mean that as a compliment.
"Winding Song," previously released as a lathe-cut 7" is Parashi at the most conventional. Sure, there are some strange loops, echoes, and improvised percussion, but acoustic guitar and Griffin channeling his best Tom Waits vibes make for a strangely musical work. A bit more out there is "Those Lazy Planners," but the combination of guitar, six string bass, and spoken word vocals are still rather musical in nature.
Of course, the "old" Parashi is still around, with the pedal manipulations and bleakness throughout "The Questioning Kind" and a litany of tape delays on "The Merry Oaf," but Griffin's songwriting approach is what made Vinegar Baths stand out the most to me. It was different than I was expecting, but the blend of conventional and unconventional elements comes together beautifully on here.