An album should always be judged on its own merits, which is why it’s a good thing we already liked Signed, Noisemaker before we learned of the artist’s history. In light of Raphi Gottesman‘s storied career drumming for bands such as Odawas and A Carnival of Hours, it’s no surprise that this tape is so mature and accomplished; we’re just happy to hear him without lyrics.
Before we get to the music, a huge shout-out to cover artist Liz Pavlovic. We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep saying it: an intriguing cover is an irresistible invitation, while a poor cover is a closed door. Try sweeping your eyes from bottom to top; an optical illusion is created, echoing the end of Interstellar. One doesn’t know what to expect from the tape, only that one must play it.
For many, the most thwarted expectation for many will be that the drums are so subtle. The release is in fact pensive, at times languid; a reflection on things present and things to come. There are even many drum-free tracks, including the final three. We realize that Gottesman is also a guitarist, and a good one; but his guitars, like his drums, are content to collaborate without demanding attention. It’s only on the title track that percussion plays a major role (and to a lesser extent on “not to see roses”). A Codeine pace is established by the guitar, then adopted by the drums and bass. Gottesman is in no hurry, and suddenly, neither is the listener. He’s able to go slowly without sounding somnambular, sharing a metaphorical message. Perhaps we all need to slow down a bit, and to associate a slower pace with quality rather than with laziness. The morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.
The album’s wild card is the trumpet of Simon Beins, appearing on “if i wanted a boat” and “skokie friend”. The additional timbre is a welcome addition, the soft interplay with the band particularly effective on the opening track. “skokie friend” is notable instead for a tiny vocal segment midway through the piece; one may think one has imagined it until one presses Rewind. The Hawking sample that closes the track may be obvious, but it’s still effective, less for the words than for the dynamic contrast. And this is what makes the closer, “older than ferns”, so effective. Incorporating sounds from earlier in the album (especially the waves of “need not be a house to be haunted”), the track becomes more than the sum of its parts. The mood has grown calmer; everyone’s come home from work, the dishes are done and the children are playing in the yard. If this particular yard is filled with giant peaches and cats, they pay them no mind; they’re simply content to soak in the end of the day. (Richard Allen)