Top Albums 2015 Advent Calendar: Day 9
Suzanne Kraft - Talk From Home
Melody As Truth
Suzanne Kraft is not actually a woman, but a man named Diego Herrera. He's a Los Angeles based producer and is a known DJ, but Talk From Home will not be getting people onto dancefloors any time soon; it's more likely to be there waiting for them to greet them with a soft cuddle when they return home from a long night out.
Talk From Home is a very soft, warm, melodic ambient album. It's put together with sparse elements, with the spaces in between those sounds playing just as big a part in creating the vibe. Listening to this album is like taking a stroll in dream-like surroundings; the temperature is perfect, the air is crystal clear so you can see for miles around and you have no desire but to walk with no intended destination, never getting tired.
It doesn't surprise me that Talk From Home was written and recorded over an LA winter. All the elements of that most picturesque of seasons in California are represented in the sounds. Herrera's guitar glides and swoops elegantly and effortlessly over the tracks, like the low-hanging golden sun in the California sky, its rays stretching down to caress your skin. The percussion and beats used are mild, just little nudges along the way, like the slightly chilling breeze that might be in the air. The warm synth burbles rise upwards from below, drawing your attention to the big sky and the picturebook fluffy white clouds that adorn it.
The cover art for this album is a nice and neat summation of the sounds held within. The canvas is pure white, and the art that unfolds within it is stylishly integrative and simple-yet-attention grabbing. Listening to Talk From Home is far from a challenging listen; it's one of the most pleasant and relaxing listens you could imagine, yet hearing it always perks me up - it's like audio brain food.
Have I bought this album?: Yes, in fact I only discovered it when I walked into Kristina Records and they were playing it and it immediately caught my ear so I bought it.
Kurt Vile - b'lieve i'm goin down...
Kurt Vile seems like he was born with a guitar strapped on him; the way that he uses the instrument to tease out his inner monologues so perfectly makes it seem like an appendage he couldn't express himself without. When I met him earlier this year he didn't have a guitar on him, but he spent plenty of the time while talking to me finger-picking his imaginary guitar and running through the songs and lyrics in his head as we talked about them.
b'lieve i'm goin down is an idiosyncratically Kurt Vile album; he tackles a range of subjects on this album that seem like they just tumble out of his brain when he's stuck in that zone. The self-reflection of his previous albums stays as candid as ever; losing track of his identity ("Pretty Pimpin'"), admonishing himself for his bad habits ("Dust Bunnies"), getting lost in the work he's doing ("All In A Daze Work") and plenty about getting angry or frustrated ("Lost My Head There," "Kidding Around," "Wild Imagination"). Each time he finds the perfect vehicle to play out these inner dramas, usually in the form of guitar jams stretched out well beyond what they seemed capable of at the outset, but never losing focus and only gaining in force and magnetism as they progress.
Kurt also takes the time to reflect on the bigger picture and what's going on outside of him. Sometimes these can be fictional characters, as in the cowboy with self-esteem issues of "I'm An Outlaw," who's brought into strutting life through excellent banjo plucking. The acoustic and synth lament "That's Life Tho" hovers over the lives of people dead or dying, the effects they have on the people around them, before Vile slackens his grip with a shrug of "that's life though... almost hate to say."
Fans of Vile's last two albums may not initially find as many hooks to rope them in on this occasion, but that's because this album focuses on mood over melody. Kurt is inviting you into his headspace, but to enjoy your surroundings you've got to sit back and relax - but try to get inside the songs. He wants to make you appreciate every last volt of his draining energy as he plays out two minutes of purely guitar picking on the end of "All In A Daze Work" - but get into the right frame of mind and you'll the recording's beautifully buzzing guitar strings tranquilisingly tickle your temples . He wants to float you up in his mental paraglider over the "peaks and valleys" of "That's Life Tho"; lighten your spirit and you'll feel buoyant as you reach for the horizon. And best of all he wants to take you on an ambling cross-desert road trip on "Wheelhouse" which glides by on weightless percussion and grey-sky pedal steel; make yourself comfortable in the convertible and feel the wind in your hair.
b'lieve i'm goin down requires time; it's over an hour long and - opening track "Pretty Pimpin" aside - you'll mostly be travelling under overcast heavens and through delicate mist-like rain as you traverse it. But there's plenty of beauty to be found in the grayscale nature of b'lieve i'm goin down, and once you can isolate all the individual shades and elements of it and appreciate their individual magnificence, you'll find that it's his most engrossing album to date.
Have I bought this album?: Yes got the 3xLP version with bonus tracks - making it even longer!!