Having grown up in Connecticut in a small town by the sea, I was intrigued by connect_icut‘s new album title. After learning that the artist is from Vancouver, I was slightly disappointed, but the music won me over.
This is connect_icut’s tenth year as a recording artist, but Small Town by the Sea is advertised as his first album with beats. Any instrument can keep a beat, as evidenced by last year’s “Port Shale”, but the shift is definitely in the percussive direction. On Small Town by the Sea, the listener encounters drums ~ typically slow, used as texture and metronome. The album is more an electronic suite than a series of tracks; Future Sound of London would be proud. And while the Connecticut association is absent, the sea feel is preserved in avian cries (“Bird Internet”) and processed surf (“Cat Town”). More importantly, these sounds are as mysterious as rolling fog. One can imagine that small town, intimate yet obscured.
Rhythms rise and fall throughout the album; micromelodies come and go. One track contains vocals. But through it all, there’s a sense that the artist knows exactly what he’s doing, chronicling this town – perhaps a suburb of Vancouver, as Vancouver is a city by the sea. The family field recordings found on “Tennis Player” (“I think we’ve found it, guys!”) implies a personal connection. Previous album title They Showed Me the Secret Beaches cements the association.
The most intriguing part of the release is its presentation. A “tight, punchy mix” is offered on CD, a “more expansive mix” on 45 r.p.m. vinyl. This rare offering underlines the difference between the formats while honoring the appeal of each. The alternate versions are a generous touch. The CD time is 42:44, while the LP clocks in at 51:28. While not every track needs room to breathe (the original “Cat Town” is 11:29), the longer format moves in the ambient direction and may be preferred by that audience. Even the birds seem less rushed, and they sing longer. One of the nicest extensions is the thunderstorm of “Bathroom Mirror”, which owns the closing minutes of Side B. To underline the obvious, this also makes it a great mixing tool. Having heard both, I prefer the vinyl to the disc; but the ability to choose is to be celebrated, no matter what one’s preference. (Richard Allen)