mike benecke - Astral Line
Info: From Los Angeles comes indie-folk musician mike benecke, whose debut album, call the waves, was released just last month, almost three and a half years after his self-titled debut EP. After time spent in punk and indie bands, Benecke dropped everything to focus on acoustic guitar, vocals and keys. His debut ep - simple, intimate, unproduced - was hailed "a stunner… one of the most intimately thoughtful and honestly heartfelt records to come out of LA in years" (la-underground), broadcast by the estimable taste-makers at KCRW Los Angeles, and was west coast finalist on NPR's 2012 Mountain Stage songwriting contest. Now, Call the Waves, mike's deput lp, flows outward from that spring. Leading a band of brothers, their drums, bass, keys, guitars, and voices create ghostly melodies, unique structures, and simple, unexpected songs. Recorded raw, often from a single take, Call the Waves haunting, transformative songwriting, takes on a life of its own. (think Sun Kil Moon, Sufjan Stevens, Cass McCombs.)
After my first listen of call the waves I admit I had mixed feelings, I liked what I was hearing, but felt too easily distracted away from listening earnestly. After a week of repeated listens it was growing on me until eventually I was fully appreciative of it's nuances and found highlights on all of its nine tracks. 'July Fires' kicks things off, and benecke's desire to be stripped down is evident here, it grew into a beautiful ballad for me as I absorbed the lyrics more, the gentle but forceful percussion courtesy of the tambourine adding a level of determination.
mike benecke - bloodsong
Second track 'bloodsong' (above) is pained and heartfelt, full on folk sounds abound, this time with intermittent drums; 'In the dark a secret river consumes itself, but in the heart, it pulls me under the deepest spell, tonight...will you carry me down to the shore, lead me into the flood'. The electric guitar progression reminding me of Damien Jurado circa 2008's Caught in the Trees.
The album's title-track is softly spoken in its delivery, and there's some really nice steel guitar slides to give it that true Americana feel, I think at this point of the album, after a couple of listens, I was starting to 'get' what benecke was up to, a sincere and honest album, but one on which the lyrical quality was backed up by genuine intention to create something that meant something on his part, not just a collection of songs he wrote to be recorded.
At the album's half-way point we come to the very pleasing 'half-life', so strange that this reminded me of early Mogwai in its purely instrumental moments, but it really did! It pushes benecke's sound from strong folk into another realm, ambient and moving with atmospheric effects. A single arrives in the form of 'my brain' (below), I loved this one, it took a small smidgen of honky tonk and humour and added it to a wonderfully upbeat piece of satire. This could have easily been on Father John Misty's epic Honeybear from last year.
mike benecke - my brain
Benecke comes back to the sound on the earlier tracks on the album with 'recall the waves' and 'chasing constellations' before closing with another highlight in 'birds', this one almost represents the two styles on call the waves, folk and upbeat indie in one, it's a crashing finish to the album with drums at full pelt and it was the tracks like these that made what would have been a good folk album a really good folk-rock one. Benecke seems to be well on the way to nailing down his sound here, call the waves is a more than good introduction and snapshot of what he's honing and his next album will be eagerly awaited around these parts.
You can download a name your price copy of call the waves at mike benecke's Bandcamp page here https://mikebenecke.bandcamp.com/album/call-the-waves
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