Textural Drone Rock
August 11th, 2015 – Alias Records
As soon as I put this album on, I regretted that I hadn’t listened to it yet. Recorded in Lexington at Shangri-La Studios, the eight songs on The Pale Horse are a total display of droning, textural mastery. There’s a fairly uniform sound throughout the entire album, and there’s always something going on throughout the dense layers of texture. Even songs that are less rhythmically intense are held in the moment by their constant motion and denseness; I’ve recently revisited Diamond Mine by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, and found some familiarity between the two albums in this way. Songs like “Dreamcatcher” are defined largely by a somewhat primitive sound – the rustling of drums that surrounds the listener, and by the calculated way that the strings resolve from droning background noise into melodic ideas. “Gunsmoke” is short, catchy, and is perhaps the most pop-like song on the album, but retains its place within the album through the reverby guitar ‘whacks’ that are traded in for heavily distorted strumming once the chorus is reached. My favorite of the album is the fifth track, “Tusk & Mouth,” a song with gorgeous chord progressions that just get better – the shift that occurs at the two-and-a-half minute mark is really worth listening for. The Pale Horse is brooding, thick, beautifully written, and expertly produced – if you’ve waited this long like me, it’s most definitely time to give this a listen.
Tracks I Liked: Darlin!, Gunsmoke!, Tusk and Mouth!!, Rolling Tides!
Ben Southworth – December 13th, 2015 – Kenwick Place
Genre: Folky Murder Ballads
Though this band is currently based in the District of Columbia, lead singer, Mark Charles Heidinger, has made his way through Lexington-based bands – specifically as frontman of The Apparitions with Robby Cosenza. Because of this, Vandaveer has a pretty large following in this town, but somehow I failed to have heard of them until very recently. It’s a shame too, because their newest album Oh, Willie, Please… is excellent. The album is made up entirely of their renditions of eleven murder ballads – all of them dark and chilling, but making their impressions through equal parts uptempo tracks to those that are just downright slinky and spooky. The title of the album “Oh, Willie,” is heard referenced several times throughout the album, and lends it a sense of cohesion; the album is made up of made up of eleven stories – track by track – but listens almost like a concept album with a greater arcing storyline. What that bigger story might be is tough to tell, though – it tends to make me want to think of the tales of a small town, and the instances of anguish and revenge it has seen. The sound of the album is great too, being recorded in perhaps Lexington’s best known studio at Shangri-La. The layers of instruments are added with perfect pacing and the building of intensity on tracks like “The Railroad Boy” is created masterfully. Heidinger’s voice is paired perfectly with the rich tone of Rose Guerin’s, but with no knowledge about her, I’d have sworn that he had talked Emmylou Harris into recording with him. For all the pop music today that mistakes itself for folk music, Vandaveer is treating the genre the way it ought to be treated – this album is crisp, and for all dark, bleak, and hard-to-stomach subjects, it’s surprisingly a beautiful and refreshing listen.
Tracks I Liked – The Banks of the Ohio!, Pretty Polly!!, The Railroad Boy!!!, Mary of the Wild Moor!, Down in the Willow Garden!!, The Drunkard’s Doom!!!, Poor Edward!
Watch the video for the album’s lead single “Pretty Polly” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9g8BV6zrVBs
Ben Southworth – Lexington, Kentucky – May 23, 2013