A Severe Joy
cinematesque part 1
(Nine Mile Recordings)
A Severe Joy is the latest musical incarnation of the muy prolifica Jose Ayerve (Spouse, Nuclear Watse Management Club), who’s basically played, sang and produced everything on the disc. The grooves, beats and melodies on this record sound spookily like 30-year-old British dance pop, with super-saturated early synth sounds, guitar delays and very retro-sounding drum machine tracks. The songs are more dreamy, watery compositions of mellow but deep inspiration rather than club hits, though they do perk up here and there, vacillating between a Modern English-style, 1980s opiate-rock feel to a more upbeat, Blondie-esque electro-rock vibe. The longest track on the record, “Dejame Tocar,” is in Spanish, which makes Ayerve’s exceptional voice sound even sexier and more European, and overtones of late-career Police keep things in the realm of his primary forte of rock ’n’ roll.
Arp’s More is a weird album—the sounds exhibit a singular strain of influence, but it’s sometimes pushed into the weird by an overlay of glossy modernity. The key influence is late-era, psychedelic Beatles. Granted, even that descriptor doesn’t put a fine-enough point on it in view of the Beatles’ wide sonic palate. This is often exuberant psychedelia, somehow bouncy, happy, and trippy all at once. Soft, comfortable singing leads the proceedings. Buzzing noise, string parts, insistent or lilting rhythms and even vaudevillian piano tumble into the mix. Sometimes, the result is pleasant, lightweight pop. Other times it verges on silly—one tune rests on a piano part so lackadaisical it makes “Chopsticks” look ambitious. Yet other times, the psychedelia becomes wistful and misty. Whether you’ll read all these ’60s-derived sounds as cool or merely coy may come down to how much of the style you’re already familiar with from its first time around the block.
Singer-songwriter/guitarist Nate Currin’s latest effort may not be intended to be a Christian album, as his website notes, but it could easily pass for one. The 18 tracks (aside from than the short instrumental opener, “As I Slept, I Dreamed A Dream”) are filled with stories of wandering through darkness, looking for truth, and feature such lyrics as “But God can you hear me? Cause I’m lonely in my dreams / And I’m down on bended knee / Sinking still”; “Oh my God, that you should see / This poverty within me”; and “I reached the ledge / Where two wood beams lay crossed / The nails still driven / But the chains unloosed and lost … Hallelujah.” Of course, the entire album is based on English preacher John Bunyan’s 1678 Christian allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, possibly the most influential Christian book ever written, save for The Bible.