Friday, March 27, 2009

February Gems: RPM 09 finds Part 4

I continue my hand picking of the bountiful 2009 St. John's RPM harvest with "Varelse or Raman?" by Bobby Young, a total unknown to me here in town. Apparently the music was inspired by the classic young adult sci-fi novel "Enders Game" but I haven't examined the lyrics closely enough to comment on that, plus I haven't read Enders Game in 15 years and ain't nobody paying me to do research for these reviews so I'll leave it up to you the reader to tell what relates to what and I'll get back to talking about what this album sounds like. "Varelse or Raman?" is a gentle loop based collection of mostly acoustic based instrumentals that move and change through the building up of layers and layers of more loops and their eventual release. I get a lo-fi Beirut meets Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells kinda vibe from it thats very pleasant and engaging for the casual listener. Choirs of hushed voices sneak up on you while layers of strummed ukulele and accordion breath in and out in sunny summer day atmospheres. It's a refreshing and untaxing listening experience that also rewards close scrutiny if your feeling in the mood for that.

The 6 Fort Waldegrave (a musical collective that lives at 6 Fort Waldegrave street I assume) have the best concept out of any concept album I've heard in this years RPM. On their RPM album "Long Night on Camp Blood" All the songs are directly inspired by the classic slasher movie "Friday the 13th" some songs are direct references to scenes from the movie and some are meant to by played over certain scenes as a sort of alternative soundtrack. Written and recorded in about two weeks it has the trademark shambolic off the cuff feeling you would normally associate with RPM participates, but this one is recorded well and just oozes good times and the sounds of a group of friends having a blast making ridiculous songs all off the cuff. I especially like the stand out rocker "Kevin Bacon Gets an Arrow Through his Neck" and slightly atonal choir of album closer "Chick Gets an Axe In The Face", They have a knack for song titles that SUPERGOD! appreciates.

Pilot to Bombardier is quite a tasty but subdued offering from Byran Power of the Subtitles fame. The delicate sparse arrangements are very reminiscent of Smog or Red House Painters with the added close double tracked vocals sort of like Elliot Smith or Sam Beam. His voice is warm and understated and gives off a easy going but world weary charm. The production is very delicate and nuanced, highlighting the quiet mood of each song perfectly. I especially like the nod to the theme of "Chariots of Fire" in the vibraphone solo in "Out of Tune" with it's chorus of "I spent hours matching your Harmony, Yet it was all out of tune". This maybe my favorite of the rpm albums I've heard so far just for it's consistency and the perfection in establishing a mood. It is a rich offering that qualifies itself as a perfect Sunday evening disc, it's like a warm blanket and a cup of chai tea on a cold day. That's the most womanly sentence I've ever written, just forget I said that. It's a good album.

Jack Betty is the latest stage name of Boobie Browne or Darren Browne (another bloody Subtitler) as he is actually named. Under Jack Betty Darren has put out "Soundtrack for a Western" which is not a very creative album title, but regardless is a fine lo-fi collection of mostly instrumentals (I'll do him a favor and not bring up the quality his spanish singing on "Mamacita") all of a blue grass or americana variety. The songs are fairly simple but still carry some of that Ennio Moricone epic scope and dusty dessert atmosphere. Darren or Jack or whatever you wanna call him carries some fine picking chops in them hands and while the recordings are unpolished and leave clear traces of room and surroundings they were recorded, this does nothing to distract from the fine playing present on the album and in fact greatly helps capture the personalities of the players give the disc a homey and very human feeling to it (whatever that means). Anyway, it's a fine picking affair to be had.