Monday, April 7, 2008

Reviews:: Travel By Sea Days of My Escape

What is a friend? A single soul in two bodies. - Aristotle

When you look back at the desolate soundscapes Brian Kraft used to back Kyle Kersten's road weary tales on Shadows Rise, you often felt he was creating textures to fit around the acoustic progressions and not overshadow his writing partner.

The duo had never met (in person), and despite the surprising cohesiveness they formed on Shadows Rise, at times you could sense the physical distance that separated the two and how that affected their working relationship. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy Shadows Rise, but the record was written in a way that really helped you embrace loneliness, even with the glimmers of hope Kersten and Kraft added to the material. It was stark and cold, and you found beauty in that.

Well, time has passed and their dynamic has shifted dramatically. From the first note of Days of My Escape, you are hit with a fuller sound, one that finds Kraft and Kersten writing with a new found familiarity and confidence. Instead of waiting for new tracks to arrive and being surprised by the results, I think Kraft's choices are stronger because he knows where Kersten is going and understands what he is trying to say.

Let It All Die Down
uses countless textures that do more than crackle over top or far off in the distance; they meld seamlessly into Kyle's words and chords. The piano plays as big a part of the acoustic riff. Instead of getting to know you conversations and interactions, Kyle and Brian's friendship seems to be one where they can go months without seeing each and pick up without missing a beat.

Whether it's a simple egg beat that keeps time on Gone, a spare banjo or slow bending steel notes that remind you of conversations on a back porch when the sun sets, the duo steps out of the greys on Winter and focuses on the hope the warmer weather brings. Even when Kyle's words sounds the loneliest (like the regret filled The Morning After or Truth Was), it's not the sound of a man talking to himself because no one else is there to listen. It's more like one friend leaning on another, hoping for some advice or maybe just and ear. Brian's sounds are there to support Kyle's outpourings and it's incredibly easy to digest the blissful melancholy presented.

And it's that growth that makes this record so enjoyable. Sure, the subject matter and a lot of the instrumentation used remain the same, but the assuredness with which they add orchestral strings (Patiently) or work with the electric guitar (When it Slowly Fades) is impressive. In all honesty, in demo form, The Morning After could have easily made the cut on Shadows Rise, but the gentle picked riff seems stronger, thicker and the textures Kraft adds really complete Kyle's sentences. The songs are no longer interesting thoughts, but complete stories. The way they are flushed out reminds me of the difference between Matt Pryor's first pass on The New Amsterdams tracks he wrote on the road with the Get Up Kids, and how they evolved once he settled in with a band he trusted. Anyone can hear your words, but it takes a true friend to listen to what you say and work with it.

This record probably won't get noticed by major publications or stumble onto college radio playlists, but it deserves to find a nice home on music blogs and Ipods. There isn't a bad song on the record, and each composition is steeped honesty and emotion.


I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this record is coming out on Justin Gage's (aka The Aquarium Drunkard) Autumn Tone Records and how much this band invokes what his blog stands for. Nowhere is this more clear than on the heartfelt Split Second Time. Gage's tastes drift towards the more traditional, and this track could have been unearthed from a stack of vinyl in your local record store. With the help of Drunkard favs Pink Nasty and Dan Iead (of The Broken West), they create a moving, tear-in-your-beer anthem with beautiful vocal interaction between Kyle and Pink Nasty. Not only that, it's a perfect demonstration of Gage's contributions to the music world.

So go buy the record.

Posted at 2:37 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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