I swear this Tim Cohen full length from Empty Cellar and Secret Seven Records has been on my turntable the past two weeks, off and on, but I keep coming back to it. It's a huge departure from his other project, The Fresh and Onlys, but like the Jeff Novak solo full length I am totally convinced that he's a huge talent that's going to take his solid songwriting ideas to whatever genre he ends up in... garage pop punk or this more intimate solo beautifully arranged masterpiece. If you remember Arvel from Empty Cellar clued me into this during our interview and I was really expecting some kind of Ty Segall distorted blues one man blowout, and this is completely in the other direction.
It's essentially a pretty quiet record, he's arranging subtle all over the place pretty minimally and switches from muted drum machine beats to heavily delayed acoustic guitar with hints of organ melody. It's completely restrained, distilled down to the essential parts. They are a collection of exceptional songs, not necessarily cohesive as a whole piece, but then again that's what I love, it keeps switching directions all within this subtle quiet framework. It's meant to be loud in complete silence, and keeps being so rewarding...immediately. Completely unexpected.
The first track 'Amazing Visions' is an acoustic piece with layered whispered vocals. All kinds of animal imagery, that sort of hallucinogenic folk. On 'Haunted Hymns' he's using all kinds of subtle effects; call and answer lyrics, but it never relies on those weird distinctive sounds or emotive vocals, it's a slow descent into pure songwriting, grounded in great melody and lyrics to come back to. 'Burn My Martyr', the last song on the A-Side even has this early Police feel, practically new wave, really sparse guitar instrumentation, kind of dark vocals, and it actually picks up to become slightly pop at one point. Vocally it's distant and unemotive in those moments Sting isn't trying so hard. It's all about the clean bassline and this cold new wave feel...it's one of my favorites, but really we'd have to be talking about a collection of unreleased singles or something from some length of time...not this package recorded last year in San Francisco(?).
'Open up the sky' on the B-Side has Chad Vangaalen written all over it to me, a lot of these do now that I think about it. His neo-folk style, combined with anti-human elements, drum machines, synth, but warped and muted out to fit this dreamlike journey... the slow deliberate machine beat with subtle synth and his layered falsetto vocals. Add a hint of beach boys type harmony and their multitrack experimentation, and he just keeps delivering these solid, really imaginative songs that stick in your head.
'I swear to God' uses his typical 4/4/ kick metronome beat with sleigh bells. Piano chords march right along with the hits, the vocals are always quiet, even contemplative, delivered just warbly enough and feeling but again, and I keep going back to this, the melodies are just so brilliant. A few other songs take that marching piano chord style, it's almost 60's pop, like Jeff Novak, it's taking that upbeat formula and making it sound damn good...and god forbid... on 'Burden of Being' he even takes everything away to just sing along with an acoustic guitar on a haunting completely sad track...that takes some balls not to drown it in effects..he's just that good my friend.
The sleeve and inserts for this are top notch...it's a heavy matte stock sleeve. The drawings, I'm assuming they're his, are great trippy doodles, on the back they're reproduced on that yellow legal ruled paper...really nice. The cardstock insert has another drawing and typewritten lyrics and thanks to every great label.
Insound's still got it...as well as aquarius I'm told, or try hitting up Empty Cellar direct, Arvel did mention on the interview I did with him this is going to be repressed...so get in line.