This Portland, Oregon band should count themselves very lucky that I'm going through something of a slack period in my duties for this site. Had I handed this review in last week when I should have, the score you see before you would be devoid of a star or two. Up until last week I found this record an interesting but ultimately frustrating and all too familiarly quirky statement. But then it hit me, in the space of one listen the other day the magic that is locked deep inside this record made itself known to me. The increased appreciation for something that had appeared so irritating is one thing to marvel at, but how a record as seemingly sparse and simple as this can have such delights hidden within is remarkable, there's not many places it can hide. The eery melodies that are coaxed from Aaron Chapman's otherworldly vocals stand alone among the barren sonic landscape, backed by an elementary rhythm section and distant glimmers of percussion the whole sound seems to show its cards from the start, but it's a bluff so don't be fooled, this is great stuff.
Having self released their debut back in 2007 Aaron Chapman and John Bowers have done their fair share of rambling but finally settled on Portland as their home. Picking up a third member, James Mitchell, their sound has laid down roots into the deeply dysfunctional yet joyously elegant psych-pop that makes up Apple's Acre. One way to describe it is Animal Collective on half the budget or Grizzly Bear on half the anal retention. There's an ease to which these songs seem to have been created. They appear shambolic at first with their rickety percussion and decrepit Rhodes piano and Chapman's high pitched delivery, but then out of this mess comes some of the most delightful melodies, and with such scant back-up it's Chapman alone who crafts these.
As a whole, the record swells to incorporate ever growing elements. In the early stages we get the thrifty concoction of voice and piano as in opener Technicolor, the feeling being lonely and haunting. Then slowly the vocals are layered and this is when the finest, most thrilling results occur. Manatarms starts off empty with dispersed voices circling the drums but then each voice falls in behind Chapman's squeak and the whole thing rises like an orchestra. The same can be said for Lita towards the end of the record. This is clearly the standout track here and throughout its three and a half minutes my heart reaches new joys far higher than any delicately crafted Grizzly Bear arrangement. With a trembling piano and plodding rhythm the vocal harmonies take their time to soar but soar they certainly do. But this isn't anthemic soaring we're used to in pop music. This is soaring that could collapse at any point and I guess it's somewhere in this tension that the beguiling beauty is to be found.
17th Aug 2009 - Tumblr3.5
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