Jon Garcia, musician and filmmaker from Portland, Oregon, is a pretty quirky talent. As on his previous, self-titled, album Jon goes for an eclectic, Wilco-like approach - a really rich production that moves easily between almost painfully delicate numbers and those that soar and rock uninhibitedly. Whereas the first album fell back too often on a young man's tendency to make a loud noise on his guitar, The Lake is much more focused and consistently interesting. There's some truly beautiful sounds here and I have to say that I especially love some of the bass-playing - a fluid, rounded, ringing sound that carries echoes of the early 80s for me: Barry Adamson in Magazine, perhaps, or Peter Hook in New Order. What comes out over and again with increased familiarity, however, is the care with which this production has been put together.
Pretty much any of the nine songs could be picked out to demonstrate this, but let's go for track 8 - The Man With The Moustache. A slow number with a steady, considered pulse to it, Jon sings the lyric in a warm, restrained timbre, reining in his tendency to let his voice soar and swoop, Rufus Wainwright-style. The arrangement starts with acoustic guitar to the fore but other instruments are quietly brought in to give breadth to the picture; without building to a too-obvious climax. The xylophone, the cello, the violins all have something to say and each is given the space in turn without disturbing the mood.
In contrast, the opening track (deep breath now) The Chemicals That Bond Us Are The Same That Break Us has considerable urgency about it in its opening and closing segments. That ringing bass, a muffled drum sound and a simple keyboard riff drive the thing along quite thrillingly. I don't like to overdo the comparisons but the more I think about it, the more wonderfully eclectic this record seems. This particular track actually reminds me of what (relatively little, admittedly) I've heard of Air and Stereolab, with a hefty chunk of New Order chucked in. Having barely caught our breath from that pretty intense ride we're then straight into a much more intimate number coloured by cello, harp and piano - which works quite brilliantly. And then the opening of Track 3, The Wedding Song, is pure Lambchop. Except that you can make out what he's singing.
'Jon Garcia' has in the past referred to the band as well as the man; there are also something like two dozen musician credits on the sleeve and no specific songwriter credits, so I think I'll assume that this is a co-operative effort. Whatever, The Lake is all about the development that can be wrought from a song idea and is chock full of great moments; I don't think any of the songs have lodged in my brain as entire songs or even for having catchy hooks, but I'm really quite gobsmacked by the riches contained here. It's an album to listen to properly and to relish.
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