A Vacant Lot
Inhabitants are a Vancouver-based quartet whose members possess a certain assurance,
more than average technical skills, and a good instrumental relationship,
as it's to be expected from a group of musicians who started playing together
more than a few years ago. This is not a line-up whose instrumentation
can be regarded as being in any way unusual; it's the way instruments are
used here that often produces very interesting results. The quartet consists
of: Skye Brooks, drums; JP Carter, trumpet; Pete Schmitt, (electric) bass;
Dave Sikula, electric guitar. Sikula also did the mix, where the style
of the tracks goes hand-in-hand with the logic which underlines the mixing.
When it comes to instrumental solutions, A Vacant Lot possesses a good deal
of variety: the role of the electric guitar is often to provide arpeggios,
and ostinatos as counterpoint, the solos using a "clean saturation" mode;
sometimes (track #1 being a good example), the instrumental attitude and
timbres reminded me of some 90s US groups that recorded for labels such
as Quarterstick and Southern (and does anybody remember Slow Loris?). The
trumpet - at times, quite Davis-like, while sometimes reminding me of echo-mode
Jon Hassell - plays the role of a lead guitar, with a hard saturation quite
similar to that of a square-wave synth. Bass and drums are what one expects
them to be, but let's not sell the drums short too fast: true, sometimes
the style of some tracks goes hand-in-hand with an indifferent-sounding
skins, but the role played by cymbals and snare played with brushes in
a few tracks which sound as being quite closely related to acoustic jazz
reveals this drummer to be more skilled than it appears on first listening.
The large stylistic variety is at the same time the biggest plus, and minus,
of A Vacant Lot. Three writers, many styles, diverse mixes, all add up
to a picture where there's no group personality that's personal enough
to have styles as modes of its own personality, not as a large catalogue
of gestures. Still, I'm curious about what'll happen next - though I'm
quite aware that today's market makes it increasingly difficult for music
outside the commercial realm to grow and change, self-motivation being
Opener Far Away In Old Words has "post-rock"
guitars; echoes, samplers, and treatments are placed in the right channel,
with the guitar solo sounding almost psychedelic. Threes starts with
a bass-drums ostinato, then a sleepy theme, the trumpet with echo, a "heroic",
descending motif, then it's a guitar solo, played through "clean
distortion". Over It Begins starts with a clean-sounding guitar
arpeggio, blowing trumpet, then it's a lyrical theme whose simplicity
reminded me of Wayne Horvitz, there's the snare drum played with snares
and brushes; starting at about 4', a tense rhythm section and the distorted
trumpet reminded me of old Faust, circa Tapes; then a trumpet solo (starting
at 6'), and the Horvitz-like theme (from 8'), bring the track to its
close. What About The Water? has a simple theme, and a nice "jazzy" development,
based on sound.
I found part two of the album to be weaker. Journey Of The Loach starts with
a guitar arpeggio, then there's a mid-tempo ostinato from the rhythm section,
theme, electric trumpet à la Miles; starting from 5' there's a "heroic-movie" theme
with an orchestral crescendo... well... it's too long anyway. Whistling
Pass is acoustic jazz, has a nice development, the snare played with brushes,
the whole sounding not too far from early 70s "New English Jazz".
Let Youth Be Served (a homage?) sounds noisy and tense. Pacific Central
has an acoustic start, quite Davis-like, theme, brushes, the ensemble playing
admirably in slow tempo; there's a crescendo from 5', and starting at 6'
an epic-sounding theme with a strong
"English Prog" flavour; the track then slowly fades.
© Beppe Colli 2010
CloudsandClocks.net | Apr. 12, 2010