Walnuts & Suede from the experimental art/pop/folk duo Love Machine is a masterpiece of a bedroom/basement/living room/rented church record, that will get you stoked on music again!
Holy smokes! It is unbelievable that Will Raisl and River Nason wrote/recorded AND mixed Walnuts & Suede from the comfort of The Guest House, their communal art & performance space in Olympia, WA. Every element, from Raisl's virtuosic fingerpicking guitars to stacked operatic vocal harmonies, is rendered in glorious glowing fidelity that seriously begs the questions why anyone would spend $1 million dollars making a record, at this point in the game.
The most common reaction to Walnuts & Suede, from preliminary listeners, is "I've never heard anything like this before!" While this is tangentially true, it makes us wonder if people either need to get out more or learn to be more specific in their criticism. Album opener "Wouldn't Mind" sounds like a bag of '70s singer/songwriter piano pop, over a sturdy backbeat that would make Harry Nilsson smile. "Daybreak" is like an orchestral interlude from a Sergeo Leone film - all close up on squinting eyes and sarapes, before settling into a chord progression practically cribbed from Jim Croce's "Time In A Bottle." "Mental Illness" is a slab of Beatles/Nuggets-era psychedelia, all mysterious and sliding, perfect for late night madness.
It's not that you've never heard anything like Love Machine before, it's that they've strung their influences together in a distinctive and personal way. Walnuts & Suede was conceived over an impressive four years with the pair frequently revising, remixing and scrapping sounds until 100% satisfied.
I would say, frankly, and at the risk of hyperbole, that Walnuts & Suede is a perfect example of all that is right and wonderful about being a music fanatic in 2015. For every disgruntled cultural commentator griping about recycling or rehashing the past, "No new thoughts under the sun", there are three times as many exciting and impassioned musicians that are pouring blood, sweat, tears and obsession into their music; pushing, pulling and tearing pop structures into novel and alien shapes, reflecting the strange world we're living in.
I've actually been to The Guest House. I saw experimental banjo player, animator, & art rocker Laura Goldhamer play in the living room where the drums for Walnuts & Suede were recorded. I had a number of passing random conversations on the short flight of concrete stairs that Raisl & Nason have likely walked up 15,000 times. It's a personal connection that makes the hi-fidelity of these recordings all that much more impressive.
THIS is what it's like to be a true music lover in 2015. Making connections with the art and musicians that you love and admire. It's the exact opposite of the 15-foot stage of Arena Rock. And while the charms of home-recorded, independent music are not precisely a newsflash, it IS newsworthy when those home recordings would sound at home on a Sufjan Stevens or Grizzly Bear record.
It just goes to show that you can do absolutely anything, at this point with a little bit of resources and an endless amount of dedication. While Big Music Business might have reason to sweat and fret (although I hear less of this lamentation at this stage, which suggests everything is going a little better for everybody), true music lovers have more inspiring sounds to indulge in than ever before.
An impressive debut!
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