For his newest release From the Back Room, Vancouver artist, Ian Schram decided to switch from the acoustic guitars he used on his first two EPs for a Telecaster and one of the best amps in the world, the Fender Blues Junior. It's a decision that feels very well made. Most often, when a singer-songwriter decides to go with an electric guitar on an album this sparse, it sounds thin and lazy. That is definitely not the case here, where the deliberate avoidance of other instruments has allowed the songs themselves to really shine.
The songs were written over a period of several years in Vancouver and a small town in the country called Agassiz. To my ear, they sound like they were written in the winter. Schram recorded and mixed them in an evening, wanting to retain the raw feel of the songs. He's got a voice that could be David Byrne and his melodies suit this well, feeling more like melodic spoken word at times than singing. This is especially true on the opening track, "Horizon,” as he tells the story of a man on the sea that's left behind someone he loves in search of something he can't find, "I'll go for a thousand miles before I see the horizon is better... than me."
"Shades of Gray" is delightfully, completely unrelated to a book series, but rather about a man who's sold off integral parts of him in the name of moral relativism and deciding what is truly right or wrong, or if those are even the right words to use in the first place. "I might just hand you a sandpaper sheet" anchors the message behind "The Mask,” a song about covering your face with everything you are not accepting. The search for a job lays the ground for the penultimate track, "Rome,” which proceeds to tell the story of a man who's received word that his son was coming home from the war. This is an EP that seems to be about searching for something unattainable and that theme continues through the concluding song, "Exodus,” a song about journey and the search for meaning in an existence that seems meaningless.
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