imputor? Press Clippings

Vells :: Flight From Echo Falls Review

2004-10-25
KZSU 90.1FM (Stanford University)
http://zookeeper.stanford.edu/index.php3?s=byAlbumKey&n=7570


Fragile, lo-fi pop with Mersey and glam references. Wispy, androgynous vocals with heavy vibrato - somewhere between David Bowie and Kate Smith - over minimal, delicate pop arrangements. Lots of organ and oom-pah style bass guitar. A haunted house thick with the swirling ghosts of The Pastels (no, theyíre not dead), along with the entire Geographic Records roster (not dead), Woodbine (not dead, either), and all these artistsí glam/psych influences (David Bowie, The Beatles, The Turtles, T-Rex, and on and on, some of whom are dead). The Vells are a collaboration project from Seattle fronted by Tristan McKay Marcum (ex Fire Child) and conceived by Jeremiah Green (Modest Mouse) and Darrin Wiener (Plastiq Phantom). The band includes or has included members of The Blessed Light, Stagger Lee, Modest Mouse, and Red Stars Theory. Songs are mid-tempo and tend to start quickly and end with drums, unless noted. No fluff - play it all. Or start with 1, 3, 7, 12. No FCCs, as far as I could tell.

Track reviews:

==> 1. Bouncy & upbeat indie rock with the feel of an English village brass band (a feel often used by The Beatles) but lo-fi in an art-school way and drum-heavy. Ends with cymbal crash.
2. Upbeat, happy Ď60s psych/pop song. Vibrato almost reminiscent of Kate Smith, no shit. Ends with drum roll and cymbal crash
==> 3. Starts with tape noise, metronome, and count-off. Cheesy organ and telephone-like vox. Swaying indie-pop ballad.
4. Mid-slow, romantic ballad. More cheesy organ. I laughed, I cried, I felt good. Ends with organ fade.
5. Theramin and acoustic guitar and drums. Finely structured sing-along pop song. Fades.
6. Vocals that sound male some of the time, this time. Keyboard-based bridge sounds an awful lot like French band Mellow. Slows at end and then some telephone-like singing.
==> 7. Begins with drums. Vocals come in about 20 seconds in. Mersey/Byrds feel with electric guitar and harmonica. Slows and fades.
8. Slow, starts with solo guitar. Male-sounding vocals. Dramatic, nostalgic, minor-key ballad. Very distorted drums. Ends with 20 secs of organ and drums.
9. Starts with drum machine. Poignant folk rock fed through a glam/distortion machine. Starts sounding epic and ethereal toward end. Ends with vibrato guitar.
10. Way-slowed down early Ď80s new wave. Kate Smith fronting the Flying Lizards in a big block of lime Jello.
11. 3/4-time, lo-fi polka pop hit about nightmares. Fades.
==> 12. Bells and marching-drum snare give a Christmas feel to this short, lo-fi instrumental.
13. Lo-fi disco number with heavy bass and vibraphone - and Marcumís signature vocals, of course. Fades.
14. Mid-slow, organ-heavy, noisy lullaby. Reminiscent of East River Pipe. Fades.
15. Mid-slow and quiet. Drums, piano, and bass, with a touch of guitar. The Vellsí music is so heavily stylized itís hard to picture the 15th song on this album sounding fresh and unique after listening to all the others, but it does. OK. I have to admit that every time Iíve listened to this record Iíve liked it more. Maybe all the fawning critics are not exaggerating after all.

--Murray Jason