Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Reviews:: Culture Reject

They often say that band members communicate with each other musically during the seamless transitions, ebbs and flows of a song. It doesn't require a spoken word or even a knowing glance. Finding that natural flow is a result of each member instinctively knowing when to be inquisitive, supportive, aggressive or simply listen with an open ear. So what happens when you are a one man band and those musical conversations happen inside your own head?

For Michael O’Connell, the result is something special. The quirks and transitions he adds to his songs are like a sneak peak into an over active mind; one that is constantly embracing the world around it. Music is supposed to be derived from your influences and experiences, and with that being said, it's obvious he's lived a terrific life so far. Stepping out of the rock genre of his last band, his new project - Culture Reject - is a collection of smooth grooves, soul, looping guitars bursts and simple percussion that he's picked up while traveling the world.

The record opens with the head nodding Ain't It On the Floor, but for me it starts to blossom on Inside the Cinema. Understated hand claps, blaring horns and a distinct Latin influence power through O'Connell's staccato vocal delivery. It's not hard to picture the rural Cuban jam sessions that O'Connell joined while traveling, and see the impact they had on his song writing. Hong Kong Part 2 settles into another Latin groove that could backdrop any lounge or summer party.

That's not to say every song fits into such a tidy description; quite the opposite actually. His thoughts seem to shift and evolve, even within a single song, leaving you waiting for the next right angle turn. Museums uses most of the same elements as its predecessor, but takes on a folksier tone. The off-kilter guitar mixing with the piano, hand claps and harmonies feel more intimate than should be possible from the number of elements, but O'Connell controls it perfectly. When the horns show up, it's like a chance encounter with an old friend when you walk down the street; you simply relax and enjoy the quick interaction before continuing on your way. The surging build that follows is like the little smile that just makes your day seems better.

Overflow contrasts a poppy piano with a reggae guitar up-strum and O'Connell's falsetto and the result is as infectious as the Cleveland Brown's locker room. The tropical vibe melds perfectly into the surf culture (fans of anyone that Jack Johnson took on tour with him will eat this track up). The quick hitting HongKong Beach Part 2 uses a more Latin guitar sound behind O'Connell's vocals. Although the vocal styles are completely different, this song is one that K-OS could add to a set and no one would blink an eye.

O'Connell truly samples from the best elements of world music but still adds the crunch indie rock fans need. The mix of funk and horns aren't usually what accompanies the minor tone vocals on Fireflies are Fading and that gives the song it's punch. The melding of so many styles is impressive, especially when you consider how subtle each texture really is. It's a crazy headphone track, with sounds, voices and currents jumping back and forth across from ear to ear. This record is one that grabs you on first pass, but continues to improve on each and every listen. It's a nice change of pace for any any music lover, and a perfect way for White Whale records to celebrate 10 releases.

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Posted at 2:00 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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