Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ben Monder - Oceana (Sunnyside, 2005)

Guitarist Ben Monder's new CD is in a quintet format where he is joined by Theo Bleckmann on vocals, Kermit Driscoll on bass, Ted Poor on drums, and Skuli Sverrisson on bass. They make some very deeply layered and atmospheric music. Leading off the disc is "Still Motion" with Blackmann's spooky wordless vocals echoing Monder's gauzy guitar like the soundtrack of a haunting. The longform title track runs the gamut from the peaceful serenity of a guitar trio to Sverrisson's thundering drum solo, with the whole band coming back together sans vocals for a fierce improvisation at the end.

"Echolalia" brings Blackmann back into the fold for a gentler tune backed by Sverrisson's sensitive brushwork. "Double Sun" is another lengthy track which builds slowly to a noirish intensity, like something that should be used in a throwback crime film as part of the soundtrack as the protagonist walks the dark, wet streets late at night. "Rooms of Light" starts with Hendrixian feedback prodded on by blasting drums and pulsing bass. Monder shapes and folds his guitar lines much like a sculptor would while Blackmann's scatted vocals weave in and out of the music. The nearly cross over into progressive rock territory, but never dip into pretension. “Spectre” ends the album on a more contemplative note.

This is an album of deeply textured and cinematic music. It would be really interesting to hear Ben Monder get the chance to do some film scoring as a future project. But in the meantime this album should appeal to a wide range of music enthusiasts.

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