Spider and Lamb by the band Warmer is a spiral graph of psychedelia, acoustic folk music, with some other pop sensibilities of the 20th century thrown in for spice. It’s as if Eels were listening to The Band and hanging out with the Flaming Lips. There are also some XTC and Jellyfish elements in the songwriting. Warmer puts together an album that takes that psychedelic folk and adds a spice onto each song from a slightly different genre. There are a lot of elements that work throughout the record with some of the music leaning more towards traditional “songs” and some of it leaning more in the direction of being a soundtrack.
In general, there’s plenty of trippy-ness throughout the album. “People Round Here” has elements brewed from the Flaming Lips, The White Album and even some Billy Joel-esque melodies. Backwards cymbals and farfisa-like organ are psychedelic splashes on top of the steady pulse of a drum machine. The guitars play ascending and descending bass lines. “Wah-Hoo” has a bubblegum pop spice with its catchy chorus, sixteenth-note tambourines and repetitive lyrics. Some of the backing vocals feel a bit jarring here, but fit into the free-spirited nature echoed by the honky-tonk piano. “No Bad Messiah” is a modal trance like song over a mostly constant drum groove (that trips over itself a few times near the end). There’s some grooving bass work being done throughout that really propels the song. “Home” features some swimmy guitars, harmonized vocals and drums over a constant pulse of piano. The vocals really bring the song (no pun intended) home with some strong dynamics and interesting phrasing. “Something Like Being Alive” starts as a John Lennon solo-era track before moving into a spacey guitar solo and the title repeated like a mantra.
On the more “folk” side of things, “Broken Wing” is a mostly acoustic track that should be haunting, but feels somewhat calming. There’s a prominent “lead bass” over mellotron flutes and brushed drums. Some distant backing vocals sound ghostlike through the final chorus as if friendly watchful spirits are present. “Cold Diamond Armchair” is an acoustic folk song that drifts into a Dixieland break with dueling soprano sax and trumpet over arpegiated banjo. “Then It Hit Me” is probably the most straightforward of all the songs. There’s a McCartney-like minor melody that drifts over some wonderful piano work. Two blended acoustics fill out the sound before a small duet near the end that moves into some whole notes from a soprano sax and a slight feel change from the glockenspiel and piano.
The album also features two instrumental tracks. “Black Cat’ is an instrumental piece that starts with fingerpicked acoustic guitar before adding a doubled track with more reverb and finally distortion before descending into vinyl noise. “Quadrille” finishes the album with banjo-like guitar over moody organ. It could work as a soundtrack for a Sam Shepherd play.
The album comes with extensive liner notes detailing the writing/recording process song-by-song, which is an interesting insight and addition to the album. The entire package (sonic, art and notes) is a very deliberate conceptual piece of art that while sometimes might feel a bit unfocused, also has the sense of a band in transition learning and exploring. A band that’s trying out the different spices on top of their songs and seeing how each one tastes. It’s a journey that never stops anywhere for too long but has a lot of sights to see along the way.
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