Monday, November 1, 2010

Garden on a Trampoline - Near-Life Experience

Newest release from my dear friend James Eric, finds him exploring many different variation of instrumental music; from scorching, guitar-driven post-rock, to Aphex Twin ambience, and at times veering close to wacked-out breakbeats. This release is perhaps one of the most adventurous i have heard from G.O.A.T. to date, skipping styles and sounds like a smooth stone over still water.
Perhaps the most noticeable attribute of this music is its emotionality, its beating pulse that is ambiguous and moving with its lack of vocals, of spelled-out narrative, to tell you what to think. The impression i am left with is inhabiting the emotional states of the Artist at the time of its inception, lonely inspiring nights in the bedroom, hunched over keyboards and audio editing software, spelling out silent stories, wordless cries, howls, lamentations, and laughter.
Production is clear and clean, and for the most part suits the songs well. Extra super-cool points for guitar tone, delayed electric guitar falling down like autumn rain, occasionally burning like a solar eclipse, bringing to mind Robert Fripp's classic work with Brian Eno, circa Another Green World. Intricate acoustic guitar lines provide the heart and soul and tear ducts of the work captured therein. The bass guitar (a 5 string, i happen to know,) growls and hisses, and provides some grit and muscle, that i feel is sometimes lacking in the world of G.O.A.T.
This album also goes to show that Mr. Eric is no slouch at programming beats, tipping his hat to NIN and other progenitors of the Industrial Revolution, whose sounds were in vogue when Mr. Eric was sharpening his chops and pen. Some songs find him experimenting with ambience and sound-design, and really illustrates his musical ear, as disparate elements hang together to find unlike symbiosis, multi-limbed mutant children, dancing in moonlight. It is an angle i'd like to see him pursue further, as he seems to have a knack for it, and it calls to mind all kinds of delightful, subjective imagery.
The only real detraction of this album is a fondness for digital sounding keyboard pads, which to these ears calls to mind cut-rate movies from the '90s, when producers realized they didn't have to pay orchestras for soundtrack work anymore. There is a Bjork quote, which i have taken to heart, re: synthesizers (and she should know): "Plastic can be beautiful, as long as it looks like plastic,". As you probably know, i absolutely adore much electronic music, but i approach synthesized with much caution and trepidation. Many of the keyboard tracks on this album work out just fine, particularly the chiming bell tones and the parts that sound like Twin Peaks, (and i do realize that score is about as synthesized as they come).
Stand-outs off this album for me are Bed (with its Frippisms) and the trinity of tunes in the middle of the album; A Silence that Almost ... which is a total class act, albeit with some questionable synth, for its driving pulse and charging melody, Melatonin for its moody, nocturnal vibes and textured production, and A Song for Kaytee which is just beautiful, and has the sounds of dolphins chattering!
This album has been one of my favorites by James Eric, whom i have watched develop and mature over the year. I am most intrigued to see where he goes from here. I think the best thing i can say for this record, is that it seems to progress, to explore, to tell a story, which is one of the challenges of instrumental/ambient music, and to do so without resorting to Explosions in the Sky formulaic bombast. Not that i got anything against the ol' P.R., but it has been done and done and done some more, so if yr gonna do crescendo rock these days, you better be real fuckin good at it. This album is more subtle, more textural. I've listened to this record probably 5 times, while putting this piece together, and i am still enjoying it on my headphones at this particular moments. That is probably my highest mark of excellence.

I am getting situated at a friend's house, where i will be staying for the month, and where i intend on doing much writing, and getting this here spot up to snuff. There will be some runoff from my Halloween bender, and some original rips of stuff. I've come across much goodness in the past few weeks, y'all will not be disappointed!

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