Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Roman Ruins on Gold Robot Records
Back from the holidays...the insane snowy weather delayed 7Inches for a day... but safely back in NYC I reached back into the review pile to pick up where I left off with Gold Robot Records and their first release back in Feb '07 from Roman Ruins aka Graham Hill. Also from the Oakland area, I think I mentioned previously on that 4 way split on GRR that he also provides percussion for The Parish, Beach House and I even read Brightblack Morning Light.
That dreamy laid back sound of Beach House is every different from this laptop solo project on this vinyl release. The A-Side 'Releasing Me' is an upbeat electronic layered pop song essentially. A carefully crafted concerned-with-minutiae pop song. More than just an experiment, it sounds like Graham is in love with the process of recording...taking all these disparate elements, acoustic, synth, distinct electronics, and weaving them together for just a moment, building a melody for a measure and then mixing it up again. A game of adding and subtracting. A challenge to himself every note, to see if that unusual sound can work for just a second. It's not nearly enough to write a song that sounds good...it's going to hold up to repeated listens just for the amount of tinkering involved all built on a base of minimal dense drum machine claps and high hat.
It's an interesting choice coming from a drummer, and I'm starting to think I hear live drum sounds coming and going...it wouldn't surprise me if there was a subtle back and forth between the human and machine percussion. That would be exactly the kind of thing I would expect he's doing and I don't even realize it. Vocally it's just as complex, layers of verses, back and forth, on top of each other in the chorus, sounding a bit like Why? at times. That experimental let's see how many chord/time changes I can mash into a few brief minutes all while keeping the melody humming.
The B-Side 'Your House'. A minimal opening of guitars and layered vocals are where you get a sense of his pure songwriting skills, but he's been waiting to hit you with the definitely machine sounding percussion from an old electronic organ preset button. Only after the fact I can say he's really been holding back on this one to build the layers of percussion straight to a massive finish. When they all come in, it sounds like a completely different track. You can literally hear the separation, he's been messing with me the whole time. It's the back and forth between the programmed and improvisation that is Grahams strength, combined with an endlessly complex arrangement that makes this a standout for solo 4-track bedroom projects.
Get it from Gold Robot, who just announced a bunch of Railcars remixes yesterday which I have to get. That reminds me of Stumparumpers Cathedral with no eyes full length review I have to finish up. That was played and loved by the office holiday party.