Sometimes it’s good to just clear away all the distorted guitars, strip off the distortion, the tape hiss and reverb; just keep everything really clear and really simple. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t keep things interesting after stripping away all these things. Truth be told, it makes things even more interesting in some ways.
Acoustic guitars, piano, subdued vocals and drums lay down the foundation for Dylan Shearer’s “garragearray” LP, out last month on John Dwyer’s Castle Face records. Each track situates itself a little closer to the listener in a few different ways, not the least of which is this stripping away of extraneous effects and distortion; there’s also an element of rhythmic elasticity within many of the tracks. Phrases stretch out, slow down, add a few beats to a bar here and there, maybe just warp time a little bit to where it’s difficult to even tell what the meter is really supposed to be in the first place. And to have these elements of aleatory inserted into the songs without them coming off sounding like mistakes, having them grow in an organic way, that’s really interesting.
There are also some really unique harmonic choices going on throughout some of the songs. Chords slip in and out of the key, leaning more towards another tonality for measures at a time before comfortably slipping back the very same way that they entered. Every element of the songs throughout “garragearray,” because of these elements, and because of Shearer’s voice – itself shades of Nick Drake with it’s relaxed, though possibly agonized near mumble – that the album just feels more like a living breathing organism than some sterile studio effort. It’s a great take on the singer/songwriter tradition. And the delicate, carefully crafted melodies within the choruses shouldn’t be overlooked. A tune like the one found in “meadow mines (fort poilio)” is something that will stay with you for a while after listening.
“garragearray” is available on CD and limited vinyl as well as download from the Empty Cellar Records bandcamp site. It might also be worth mentioning that Petey Dammit from Thee Oh Sees plays bass on this album.