28 December 2011

Squanto - on being lumpy (2011)

2011 hasn't been a bad year for slow melancholic slowcore albums, with Talons', Owen, Rivulets, Saso, Idaho or Deep Waters and I'm lucky enough to close the year with one promising discovery, "On Being Lumpy" from the until now totally unknown to me songwriter Ben Lovell who releases his music under the name Squanto.

He is, if I'm not wrong, 20 years old and "On Being Lumpy" can be considered as his first seriously achieved, and patiently conceived album - but apparently there is another one "Go Go Gadget Grass Stains" released in 2009. The result is quite good and reminds me of Talons' or Vio/Miré, with a  personal perspective.
Ben Lovell is Rochester/Long Island, NY-based musician and recorded "On Being Lumpy" between October 2010 and June 2011 in his dorm room at school in Rochester and in his parents' house on Long Island.

I just need the two minutes instrumental introduction "Snow Falls On One Side of a Window" to start a crush for this record. It is slow, pensive, melancholic, warm, intimate and highly sensitive. 

It is everything but not a surprise to find in his last.fm playlist many artists which I enjoy too and who are exploring relatively similar atmospheres, from Talons' to Early Day Miners, from Idaho to Smog, from Thanksgiving to Talk Talk, from The Books to Zelienople. 

The nicest part is that he is sitting on the more fragile and subtle side of his influences, keeping things quiet and minimal, just enough to strike the right vibe and most of the time, capture the right moment and the most volatile melancholic feelings.

And when he sings, yes it is killing me too, like with Wio, Chauchat, Vio/Miré or Snowstorm, for nothing in the world I would want to be elsewhere than here, being in total emotional communion with "Field of gas". 

There are a few imperfections, like with "Behind" where the balance of the track could have been better in the second part, but the mix of acoustic guitar with background keyboard sounds creates nice textures and you feel there is room for progress both technically, aesthetically and even on nuances of depth.

On"After everyone else left", which is the longest track with 10 minutes, he is using reverberated piano as main instrument. It is an overexposed format and he is playing it using both minimalism and repetition with a very humble approach. The result is quite nice. I don't think I would follow him for a full instrumental album of such reverberated piano but on the length on this track I am satisfied. 

Back to basics with the lo-fi song "For a While", slow acoustic guitar and whispered vocals, but while he could have disposed of it after the two and half minutes statutory minutes, he instead expands it past six, almost seven minutes long, using organ-like sounds with a dreamy reverb as accompaniment of his guitar playing. Later, after five minutes, the vocals are coming back but dubbed with drums and it turns into an hymn. Beautiful. 

Next track, "The View From There", is more conventional, the usual indie folk pop lo-fi song. "Like Chlorine" tends toward the psychedelic spectrum, before a the end of the album with an instrumental interlude "The view from here".

I'm already longing for his next full length.