Tramp, in its literary sense, is a homeless person. One would know the reason why Sharon Van Etten third effort is titled as such if he has read about how she went bedspacing friend after friend after being on the road for quite sometime. There is something liberating about carrying everything you need with you and not having a shoebox that grows into a full-on luggage as years pass by. This fleeting quality, reflective of Van Etten’s reality, looms all over Tramp— the record.
Looking at Because I Was In Love and Epic, Van Etten has made it clear that she means to make music representative of her experiences. The phrase ‘abusive relationship’ has fairly been tossed around in describing her songs, all pre-Tramp. This haunting presence of that story while living in Tennessee might have escaped Van Etten in making Tramp, with the help of the Dressners of The National and indie leads like Zach Condon and Juliana Barwick but the force that propels her first two records still linger in its second half.
You cannot really fault Russel for being suffocated at a married friend’s party. These people he grew up with, especially Jamie who has been his bestfriend since 12 when they were both moving from an orphanage to the next, are talking about children parties and strippers. The latter would be appealing, only if Russel were straight. Or the former, if he had kids. He skips the night-cap and sneak into a gay bar hoping for a good Friday night lay. He meets Glen, a confident and at times too brusque to be true art gallery worker who tapes his one night stand partners for a narrative art project that would, in his views, challenge media brainwashing of isolating homosexuals and would too provide personal realizations (to the speaker, and would be listeners) on the characters we make up to get laid which ultimately show what stops us from being that person ourselves. All that by stating the carnality of a night which according to Russel is a collection of ‘dirty talk.”
In Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, we meet two people both at the crossroads of something we can safely bet as existential crisis. Russel (Tom Cullen), shy, charming and “fine” does his routine well. His kitchen is with thrift shop antique cups and well-varnished cupboards, neat cut-outs of portraits adorn his abode with order that would seem odd for a twenty-something single who is supposed to spend not much time at home. “I am fine when I am home, “ he states. He works as a lifeguard and is not out to his colleagues. It seems that he fills up his days jumping over a fence beyond his height to see what it is like to be in the open. In an instance, he looks at the two men guests, while in his job, with wonder and notice. Glen (Chris New), on the other hand, is idealistic and reluctant of intimacy, “I don’t do boyfriends”, he quips. His hesitation for a relationship, later revealed in the film, is due to a fallen, betrayed relationship and his impending two days away departure to Portland for an art course. He walks clenched fist with regards to his homosexuality and can spit fire to straight people on how the whole industry is buoyed up in support of their kind. Living with a straight female roommate, Glen is carefree and daring, and unlike Russell who is satisfied living in Nottingham, Glen sees it as a place to stay in a rut.
‘Why we can’t be or see,’ she asks and the story spools from there. The story woven out of a long yarn, bleeds into years of reading the calendar and how each space from the days speak of the distance and her unknowable apathy.
‘You’re the thunder,’ made of tormenting storm and ravaging winds— a phenomenon she seeks out to see yet hopes to not cross upon. Kept with admonitions in her prayer, she thinks of him in grace. Though distant and not always visible, she has clear memory of him but always they both stay unanswered.
Anja Plaschg released “Boat Turns Toward the Port” last December that served as a harbinger of what her upcoming mini-LP Narrowwill be like, not absent of her harrowing gloom and intensity. She surfaces again with “Wonder” and a very intimate Soap&Skin is revealed, almost bare and see-through. The track escalates into heavier atmosphere, torched up by her piano and the ghost-like voices that loom in Plaschg’s psyche as she directs questions about fate and her remembrance of a past.
In “Ocean Under Lakeshore Drive,” one of the highlights of U Nu‘s debut Summer of Rain, Josh Brechner turns a deaf ear over his subject’s (or our) whining. In a cold fashion, he sounds gritty and punk, calloused by brassy drums and hopscotch singing. This and we are treated to “Field Recording,” an augmented number talking about err, recording and ‘one of those things’ where you hear Brechner discuss the subject. What is the purpose of that? Seated mid-way in the record, it marks Brechner’s further take on different forms of this art called experimental music. And he does not stop there.
A student of Political Science and based in Chicago, 21-year old Brechner has handled numerous instruments in years. Drums, saxophone and basically everything one can hear in Summer of Rain. Striking the balance between his goals musically and what listeners expect out of something experimental, though, can sometimes break off too far.
Admittedly, not all tracks in Summer of Rain are as appointing as “The Orchard Row / Ellipsis,” a five-minute stalker theme that strangely gives glimpses of lazy Sunday afternoon when there is nothing better to do than throw skipping stones at a lake or “Grey,” a spoken poetry number that showcases Brechner adulation of words by crisscrossing stories in a voice that ascends to panic in its last lines. Or “July23 or This is the End,” with only seven words in it appeals in its simplicity and mounting emotional exhaustion.
Intentional in its approach, Brechner has come up with an exciting batch of songs that are diverse, sometimes addictive and undeniably memorable. Thrown with other songs in a playlist, his tracks remain recognizably U Nu and U Nu alone. Clearly aware of what he is making here, Brechner chooses to tread this experimental wing and seemingly will stay here for a long time. For Summer of Rain can stand on that claim along with the verbosity brewing in all its sides.
Six years worth of working together and evolving from their former sound as Khale, Kael Smith and Matt Herron took inspiration upon Smith’s beloved 1985 movie Return to Oz (directed by Walter Murch) and named their new project Mobi, after L. Fraunk Baum’s wicked witch character in his The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series from where the movie was based.
As Mobi, the Denver-duo released The Wounded Beat, a collection of eight melancholic soundscapes that houses their debut single “The Misunderstanding,” a four-minute clockstopper that stretches into a trajectory of gloom and reverb. Smith’s vocals build up as the track angles into a hazy wave of ambient sounds, picking up halfway as the momentum rises and the whirring closes in.
The music video for “The Misunderstanding” is by director/animator Manuel Aragon of Spacejuncian Films who has also worked with Low (“Breaker”) and Retribution Gospel Choir (“Your Bird”). The video was chosen as a featured video in YouTube which introduced Mombi to a wider audience. “He specializes in animation, but he wanted to focus on live action shots for our video,” says Herron of Aragon’s work.