JULIAN LYNCH – MARE (OESB, 2010)

Mare, although we are a month late on it, feels like a mid-summer nights birthday party; a celebration, a gift, an often overlooked cultural event. The native New Jersy-ian (and bffs with Real EstateDucktails, etc..) and current ethnomusicology grad student at the University of Wisconson-Madison has created an astute bedroom-pop album fixated on ambience and texture but with its feet planted firmly on steady ground of airtight song structure. Mare is a glorious pastiche of pop hooks underneath a chemical bath of lo-fi haziness and restrained washes of omnipresent guitar drone. Lynch is at his peak of perfection when he extends his laid back breeziness into his meandering bass lines, buried percussion, and left-field spontaneous instrumentation. While Lynch sinks his voice beneath the fidelity level of most of the instruments on this album it is still pretty easy to call this a pop record. But where most drone-pop luminaries choose to let their fragile compositions falter beneath the pall of guitar fuzz, Lynch’s delicate instrumentation is clear, discernible and remarkably deep.

Take title-track “Mare” for example, the drumming in that track, while not too far removed from a quasi-ethnic raga, thud and pop like distant fireworks. Exploding behind, underneath, and over the top of all the hazy drones encircling the track providing a unique three-dimensional listening experience. The saxophone, trumpet and a bevy of woodwind instruments, especially on tracks like “A Day at the Racetack” and “Ruth, My Sister” have the tendency to steal the show. The non traditional instrumentation doesn’t call attention to itself like a reflexive-song-and-dance-in-the-middle-of-a-heady-drama type thing (like 10 word hyphenated beast in the middle of a sentence does), but punctuates, garnishes, and deepens the already bottomless track. Oh, and the guitar solo on “Ears”. Totally kills it dead.

With Lynch’s degree in ethnomusicology it comes as no surprise to hear some less than obvious influences crop up on just about every track. “Interlude”, for example, starts out with a vaguely raggae/soul-sounding dub template before some slack guitars and a grooving bassline tie the whole thing back to a mid-seventies Bronx jumble of intertwining tropical and American influences. Equal parts “The Harder They Come” era Jimmy Cliffand David Gates

Above everything, Mare is polite. An unobtrusive, dreamy little mid-summer gem of a record. Something that has been a companion through countless, stupid SEO articles and provided more goosebump raising, smile inducing, deep listening moments per capita than perhaps any other record this year. Totally worth your time and attention. Did I mention the guitar solo on “Ears” slays it? Phew.

Ryan H.

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