June Rise - ....of Raging Waters
Queens born Mark Yodice issues his debut album under the pseudonym of the June Rise, a name taken from the book by William Tremblay recounting the story of Joseph Janis, the white man who became an advisor to the Lakota Chief, Red Cloud. It may at first seem a strange association, but after listening to this a few times you can detect some method behind it all.
In this world of transient, nay forgettable pop hooks, ...of Raging Waters is something different. Expect to be startled, but not enthralled on first listen. Be warned, this is an album which requires repeat listens in order for you to get under its skin, and it under yours. Acoustic instrumentals are not to everyone's taste and the album, due for release in February 2012, contains ten of them. That might be enough to put some people off. If so, those people are missing out on something which has a quality all its own.
Although other instruments do put in an appearance, strings, keyboards and some percussion, the tracks on the album are dominated by the acoustic guitar. You may think that this would provide a limited scope for the music, but you would be mistaken. By the time you have listened to the whole album, assuming you have been listening carefully enough, you will have detected influences as diverse as delta blues finger-picking; Spanish guitars; jazz, modern classical and even west African rhythms. Quite how this all gets packed into a single album of just over forty minutes length is quite something.
And, yet, in spite of it, the album hangs together rather well. At no point does the diversity of tracks contribute to sense of an album which lacks coherence. The root of the success lies not only in Yodice's guitar playing but also the way the rest of the music, the backing music if you dare call it that, it is arranged. Complementary but never overpowering nor understated, the mix manages to hold together to create the layers of musical texture which underpin everything.
There are some good pieces on here, music which will alternately soothe you, calm you, and shake you up a bit. The opener, "Good Lion", has a bouncy syncopation initially before settling into a smooth theme which seems to come develop further as a melody after the coda. "30 Feet Tall" mixes the solo violin with the acoustic guitar in a meld of occasional feedback slicing through the overall warmth. "Montauk, Summer Rain" closes the album with fine double guitar intro sliding ultimately into a soothing jazz-influenced number. And I defy anyone not to hear in that guitar sounds the falling rain followed by the dripping of drops off the roof after it has ceased. These three are probably the outstanding tracks of the album.
It does not work all the time, however. "Elegia" does drag a little, and seems an experiment too far with an almost lo-fi production sound to it and mournful solo violin sounds rather out of place, not quite the pre-Raphaelite atmosphere I suspect was sought. "Brooklyn Sleep Prayer" is again too experimental, with a mixture of sounds and styles, beginning with West African rhythms and with a mixture of electronic and minimalist features all competing for space against a jazz theme.
...of Raging Waters is an album which is going to develop the more you play it. At this point in time I find myself struggling to encapsulate my opinion. Each hearing opens new vistas. Whether it continues to do so will aid my future impression of the album the more I hear it. And if making you want to hear it again is the mark of a successful album, then this is a successful album.
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