The duo of Attic Fowler (Chris Rutledge and Taylor Fairey) use an analogy of eating an English muffin for breakfast to describe their sound. That's just a bit too out there for me, so for the sake of simplicity let's describe what they do as “southern indie folk rock” (they themselves use “terrestrial river soul”). There are a lot of layers here but overall their self-titled album Attic Fowler has a very organic feel, likely due to being home recorded. That being said, the end result is well put together and uses its lo-fi elements very well.
There are two elements that define the album. The first is how Rutledge plays lead guitar. The melodies he's crafted are flexible things, twisting and turning, almost serving as lyrics in their own way as they are what grab at your ear first. Nearly all the tracks are built around this and they're the most distinct sound created on the album.
The second element is Rutledge's vocals. They sound as though they're coming from some other, distant place. It's not accurate to say they're psychedelic in the usual sense—that (to me, anyway) implies heavy studio manipulation to achieve an overtly strange effect—but they certainly have an otherworldly quality to them, feeling dim and far away. This has the unfortunate side effect of making what he's singing hard to hear at times, but how he sounds is interesting enough on its own that I didn't mind this so much. There are tracks where this is especially true as the lead guitar is brought to the forefront and the singing placed in the background. Normally this sort of mixing would turn me away, but here it serves to play up the ethereal quality of the singing and works quite well to this end.
Now to despite my use of the word “ethereal” I want to emphasize how warm the album is as a whole, from the lyrics to the performance itself. The riffs plucked out on the electric guitar calls back to southern folk influences. Though they're usually regulated to lurking in the background, the keyboards swell as simple underscores to everything else.
There are a few moments where the album verges on shedding its skin. “Patterns” is, like most of the album, a slow burn (though comparatively brief, just under four minutes). It's here where the psychedelic label is most apt: the lead guitar has that sort of ‘60s hazy twang to it and the melody echoes not only in repetition but by design as well. The album deviates furthest from the usual down home feel by being both minimal (just thirty four words between two short verses) and bizarre: “Wet are the walls/new figures, oh my/a song synched to a lit cigarette/a patterns pushing back.” “Light Bulb Garden” makes use of a shimmering strum throughout that puts the song in dream pop territory. Though things like the tone of the guitar never differ it's how the music is constructed that makes these changes.
It's a challenge to put Attic Fowler in a box; it's unusual enough to warrant your attention yet familiar enough that you'll think it perfectly natural.
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