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Counting up

Caleb Hinz finds inspiration in limitations

Caleb Hinz performs at Deadbeat Olympia, May 10 at 7 p.m. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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Limitations are part of what makes the greatest music so effective: pairing down what it's possible to do with the medium allows you to explore what's best to do. There's a reason why there are so few truly great double and triple albums. Bands like Queen and Joe Jackson have overtly bragged about the absence of synthesizers or guitars on certain records of theirs, proudly announcing that they took the long way around to making something special.

I tell you that to tell you this: Caleb Hinz is a singer-songwriter who recorded him counting to the number 3,600. Why would anyone think to do this, and what does this have to do with limitations?

"I was working at Chuck E. Cheese's for a while, and on weeknights there would be nothing to do," says Hinz. "You would have to think of ways to pass the time. One day, I had calculated how many seconds there are in an hour, and there's 3,600 seconds. So, I tried to count that amount of seconds to pass the time, and it ended up taking way longer than an hour, because you get to like 1,946, that takes longer than a second to say. But then I just thought it was a really cool idea, and one I'd like to try again. So, if you listen to it, I'm just sitting in my bathroom, and I'm getting hoarse. It was like an endurance thing."

All told, it took him an hour and 27 minutes to count to an hour. So, even though this stress test is like a David Blaine starter stunt, he landed on something kinda profound. He was working within the constraints of the ultimate limitation (time), and ended up drawing outside the lines. As a singer-songwriter, Hinz likes to play around with form, jumping around from winsome strumming and soaring vocals to moody electronica and downtrodden country. His 2013 release, Sloven, most resembles Badly Drawn Boy's The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, with its epic scope and pastoral beauty.

"I don't really know what to do with myself unless I have some sort of limitation," says Hinz. "You hit a dead end if you have unlimited possibilities. At least for me, I just have to set some sort of boundaries - not necessarily intentionally all of the time. I just work best if I have something to push back on. With Sloven, that was a time when I didn't have any intentions of buying a good microphone, and I was just wandering. It was weird. I was sick for a while, during Sloven. I didn't go to school for a little bit. A lot of those songs, I was sick, and my nose was plugged. Looking back on it, it might have sounded better if I wasn't sick, but there it is."

Still, for as much as Hinz finds himself attracted to challenges, his latest batch of songs is one that he tells me he'll take the time to make as good as he possibly can. After a prolific and short career (releasing an average of three albums a year since 2011), Hinz is finding himself facing a new limitation: that of perfection. After sanding off his shaggy edges, will Caleb Hinz still find inspiration in experimentation?

I can't wait to see.

DEADBEAT OLYMPIA, w/ Thrax Enhancement, Julian Eli Davis, Exmyrelda, May 10, 7 p.m., $5, 226 Division St. NW, Olympia, 360.943.0662

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