A Vacant Lot

(Drip Audio)

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 a necessity.

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 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

Beppe Colli 2010 | Apr. 12, 2010