Experimental Folk Scrapbooking
Self-Released October 21, 2016
It’s been just over four years since Ben Sollee released Half Made Man, his last major full-length album. I got to host Sollee and his reliable musical partner, Jordon Ellis, on WRFL-Live that fall to promote the album, and the two have been performing together on the road ever since. And so it’s fitting that Infowars features them together in a setting that feels every bit as much like a live performance as it does a studio album.
Promotional materials for the album acknowledge this unique feeling, saying “Listening to this record is like looking through a scrapbook or reading a diary. Jordon and I stitched together audio memories from our years on the road to inspire new sounds and ideas.” It really does convey that feeling, too – spanning nineteen tracks, Infowars features nearly as many short instrumentals and bits of field recording as more traditionally sung songs. This mixture of songs and captured sounds accomplishes precisely that ‘diary-of-life-on-the-road’ listening experience.
The highlight of the album is “Long Lavender Line,” which incorporates lots of effects, samples, and electronics, as Ben mourns our modern dependency on technology – even including a verse about a man walking off a cliff because he was too wrapped up in Pokémon GO. “Coming Down” is maybe the most traditionally ‘Ben-Sollee-sounding’ track on the album, and feels very live, capturing the two musicians at their most in-sync with each other. A close second for my favorite track is “Eskimo Annie,” featuring Alabama legend Lonnie Holley – Ben puts a nice drone from the cello beneath the vocals, and Jordon contributes just the right amount of shuffling drums to the mix. Towards the end of the album is “A Small Town Sunday in Spain,” a slow, calm, romantic memory of a relaxing afternoon overseas.
Infowars is well conceived as an album, establishing its atmosphere from the outset, and sprinkling it tastefully throughout. Even with its experimental use of effects and electronics, the album should remain accessible to long-time fans. Because of this evolution as an artist, and along with these captured moments of his life as an artist, Infowars manages to sound like the most personal work that Ben Sollee has issued to date.
Tracks I Liked: Cajun Navy!, Long Lavender Line!!!, Coming Down!, Fanfare for a Crowded Room!, Eskimo Annie!!, A Small Town Sunday in Spain!, Distractions!!, Repaired!
Ben Southworth – October 30, 2016 – UK SA/VS Building
Genre: Ambient Electronica/ Quasi-Trance
The label “ambient electronica” is a strange one – one that can really mean a lot of things. I guess, to me, it means the sort of music that is made with electronic components, but doesn’t necessarily make you want to dance. And though this EP didn’t have me on my feet, it definitely had my head bobbing along subconsciously. Chimarra’s first EP, Edge Effects, is a 23-minute collection, made up of glitchy drum beats, samples panned to either side of the head, a slew of different synth sounds, and the mellow tone of a euphonium. At first listen, the album is a lot what you’d expect from an ambient electronic artist – the drum beats, especially, remind me of the fizzy rhythms that made up much of Sufjan Steven’s Age of Adz. There are two major things, though, that give this music a different feeling than most other music in this genre: the feeling of a narrative and followable line of song development, and the euphonium. Taking a look at Chimarra’s Facebook page, he lists “the power and beauty of the natural world” as the inspiration for his music – when taking this into account, it makes it a little easier to understand the feeling of calm narration that much of the music has. The choice to include the sounds of a brass instrument – thrown in selectively on euphonium, rather than a sampled sound on a keyboard – is definitely interesting, and it gives the music some really nice dissonance and color. The album definitely rides the line into trance music – it’s pretty meditative and it conveys its ties to the tranquility of nature very well.
Tracks I Liked: Cave Patterns!!!, North of the Light!, Timestream!!
– Ben Southworth – Lexington, Kentucky – May 21, 2013
I’d be lying to say that I know a lot about hip-hop, but I got lucky on this album – it’s a very well done project that should be easy for anyone to digest and enjoy. Abundant with samples, Fidel starts off the whole album with a sample about radios, and throughout the album – whether about Colt 45’s, production of vinyl, or just the repeated “Fidel” that is found on many songs – the vocal samples are all used well. When it comes to the music, Fidel’s job at Lexington’s vinyl shop The Album is obvious, as many of the sampled bits sound like they came straight off vinyl. With the crackle of old wax preserved, LoFidel does a great job of taking you away from the current world of overly-digitized music, and replaces it with good-feeling samples through an analog production. For an album of this sort, it has remarkable cohesion – something that many albums in the genre lack. Like I said, even if you’re not into this type of music, it’s a highly accessible album that deserves a listen, or several.
Tracks I Liked: Crash Landing!!, Back Trapper!!, Analog Astronaut!, Plush Leather!!, Mellow Psychosis!!! (My favorite), Right Timing, The Reazon!, Recognize!, Halo Hands!!! (Also awesome), All of Us!!
Check it Out:
– Ben Southworth