smileswithteeth ~ care

There’s an easy way for instrumental acts to publicize their message, so easy it’s amazing so few think of it: put the message on the cover.  This way, even a digital downloader will see the words.  Congratulations to Gabriel Gutierrez and the ::never content:: label for figuring this out.  care is an expression of what many people yearn for: a restoration of human kindness, a belief in one another, a desire to improve universal conditions, turned into positive action.  As discussion deteriorates across the political realm, an opposite movement has formed, not of anger but of hope.  The chipboard seeds that cradle this cassette provide a parabolic expression.  The music of smileswithteeth, which has always been life-affirming, provides the motivational soundtrack.

At first listen, one receives the tape as a sample-based work, but is hard-pressed to identify any of the samples.  Are these great songs we’ve never heard, or are the snippets simply too small?  The answer is neither.  Gutierrez “hired a group of jazz musicians to record two days of improvised music,” then used the recordings as the basis of his own, re-contextualizing along the way.  The result is an album that feels simultaneously live and looped, loose and controlled, but most of all vibrant.  We connect this colorful explosion of sound with the diversity of a rich culture, one that enjoys the life that all free people might have, if only they would choose to do so.

The languid “love” leads us into the album, followed by “mend” ~ sentiments that mesh with the warmth of the music.  The trumpet of the second track leads to miniature exhalations of bass and drum, like little victories.  These tracks began as jazz, but in the hands of Gutierrez are transformed into electronic symphonies.  Violin and piano dance around the peripheries; on occasion, a sweet female voice descends from the heavens.  The beats are woven throughout this tapestry, steady in tempo but seldom in pattern.  Lead single “fill” is a potential hit, but not the only one.  “for” falls firmly in Bonobo territory, with a playful brass bridge.  “us” plants a slow beat upon a soft soil of crackle, then waits to see what instruments will bloom.

In the end, there is no “us and them,” just us.  Gutierrez’ simple, inclusive statement reminds us of our shared humanity.  If a cat in North Dakota sees a cat in South Dakota, it thinks, “cat.”  If we could look across our borders and see “another one of us,” we would be one step closer to progress.  care may be only an album, but it’s also a seed that trusts in the rain and the sun.  (Richard Allen)

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