In a recent article about Ernest Hemingway in the New York Review of Books there is a quote from a note on one of the stories the young Hemingway had given to Gertrude Stein, an early mentor of his, to read. The note simply said, “Begin over again and concentrate.”
Over time Hemingway’s style came to be seen as simplistic, as though anyone could do it. However to this day no one has produced anything remotely close to the “easy” prose he has written. It is well documented that Hemingway was a vigorous reviser, and simply made his work appear easy, when in fact it wasn’t. This is the feeling I got after a few spins of The Flame at Night, the first record from Sleeveless Tina aka Brooklyn recording artist Zach Lane. Lane makes his living as a luthier (a person who repairs stringed instruments) and also plays in projects, which run the gamut from a jazz singer outfit and composing with a large ensemble all the way to playing in a disco pop band.
The Flame at Night is a supremely lo-fi recording, which Lane recorded in his Brooklyn basement. The album opens with “Enchanted Zestful Tang” a catchy drum and keyboard riffed ditty in the vein of Ween and ends with the hilarious line “Goes Down No Sweat, Tina Turner.” “If We Don’t” is a slow psych-addled rocker with piecemeal drums and scratches of guitar. The psych seeps even further into the lucid “Lady Bug” a mellow and haunting piece of lo-fi pop.
On “Circling Serpent” Lane takes on a slightly heavier rock feel with the thumping chugs of bass, which leads into the psychedelic instrumental “Shaky Cakes.” The tempo gets turned up a few notches on the ‘60s garage stomp and rather witty titled “Shlitzkrieg.” The Flame at Night closes with the carnival-esque instrumental “Ferris Wheel.”
We never did finish with Hemingway from earlier. Hemingway later developed a theory on writing known as the “Iceberg Theory.” Basically when you see an iceberg sticking out of the water you are merely seeing a small fraction of it. The larger part of the iceberg is beneath the surface. My point being is that lo-fi records are easy to make, though they are quite hard to make well. As a guy who’s been a lo-fi connoisseur for some twenty years The Flame at Night has definitely earned a place on my shelf.
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