Do you enjoy digging through crates of tapes and LPs in search of hidden gems, or maybe just something a little different?
How you answer that question will have a great bearing on how much you enjoy The Gullwing Project, from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania’s Mere Fate.
The Gullwing Project is a lovely slab of '70s-style folk rock/Americana, wrapped in a humble package. It looks, and somewhat sounds, like a CD you would buy from the counter of a coffee shop or a local record store. You might think that's an insult; it's not. It says more about how we perceive albums like these, and are willingness to dig for inspiring sounds.
Those cast off by the amateurish font would miss out on a lot of great musicianship, some catchy songs that stick in your craw and stay with you all day. Most notably, the guitars are exceptional. There are clean, twanging, lazy-strumming acoustics, like the mellow sway of "Self Made Soul", which sounds like Traffic meeting CSN&Y while mellow on pot, sex, and wine, as well as subtle but glorious moody electrics, bringing to mind the angsty psychedelia of Roger Waters-era Pink Floyd and the glistening chorus of Jeff Beck or Mark Knopfler, which I've always been a fan of.
From top to bottom, start to finish, The Gullwing Project screams understatement! Savvy spotters will notice that this is their first album in 14 years, as the band clearly favor quality over quantity. And quality there is to be had here, but you've got to really pay attention to appreciate its glory. This comes down to the production, mostly, which tends to flatten rather than polish. I wish the guitars or vocals would POP a bit more, maybe with some extreme EQing, to help individual stand outs from the washy blur.
Me, I'm an avowed digger. I frequently buy stacks of unknown records and wade through them for riffs, weirdness, inspiration, or just straight intellectual curiosity, so I'm well-used to finding charming gems in the rough. Don't let the bulbous cartoonish typesetting deter you from the gate. Dig in, and take a chance!
The Gullwing Project is like one of those old, great movies that would have been truly exceptional with the right budget. Musicians shouldn't have to be masters of mixing, mastering, marketing, and graphic design, as well. This is just another sign of the world we're living in, with its harsh, harsh standards, when I might go from this local Pennsylvania record immediately to a Nicki Minaj record. It's really not a fair comparison. Here's to hoping it won't be 14 years before the next Mere Fate record, and that next time, they can bring in a bit of outside assistance, to let as many eyes and ears appreciate their passionate and committed musicianship.
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