Saturday, July 15, 2017

Thinking All On Musical Meanings and More - Ari Edwards's (and Vincent Randazzo's) "Bedrooms EP" Review

For one who achieves comprehension of what constitutes the meat and blood of a project, that essence of the project, of the grind towards fruition or completion, it becomes a drive that soon loses all rationale. When you get right down to it, for one’s sanity to necessitate the design of something so arbitrary, something so intangible, something wherein the meaning resides solely with the creator, it is rather silly. Well then call me and the art scene a host of silly fuckin wizards, because the rest of us are dependent on our creations. Art is created that the artist might share it - it is a gift, for whomever may find themselves enriched by the distillation of its creator. So it must seem strange that my novel trilogy, on which I have been working for about thirty months (and that’s only the last four drafts), has yet proven its viability as a gift. I suppose it doesn’t have to, afterall. Monterey, as with most towns, has no shortage of people whose gifts are parceled like chum in water. Scores of musicians want to show me and everyone else their music. People hand me their albums like they’re giving clean needles to a fucking dopehead. There have been few, however, that I was handed in a manner of graciousness, such that the artist seemed only partially opportunistic, and otherwise retained some anticipation of my gratitude which made all the more brilliant their smiles when I endeavored to learn more of the matter. Of this matter in specific, I was educated not with the formality that encroaches me under usual circumstance. I was invited, rather, to the company of two characters, and with their character I was thus charmed moreso even than with the music they produced. Their names were Ari Edwards, and Vincent Randazzo. And though congested and blurred have been my days since, not one has passed in which I had not contemplated it.
I’m a writer, right? More specifically, I’m a storyteller. Stories are oft difficult of telling, however, when there are not firm characters on which to build the story. On that note, I would firstly like to thank Vincent and Ari for being a couple of characters whose, well, character is about as delible as a woodburned plaque. That is to say, if you threw them in a woodchipper, they might not make it, but certainly they’d remain in many a memory nonetheless. These are a complex pair, and their pairing only fortifies the difficulty of describing them, so pardon if my interpretations venture too remotely into conjecture.
When first I saw Ari Edwards in person, they (alt. pronouns) were sat at Carbone’s - that very divish dive bar on Lighthouse, from which one might score a myriad of questionable business opportunities - and at their flanks were meatheads galore and piddles of whiskey and cheap shot glasses. Everyone present was drunkenly boisterous, greasy-looking, perhaps wonderful people, but not my people. It was one of those instances in which I was reminded why I cut down on drinking. However, there sat amongst the perspiring ranks was a placid smile across a face shapeless and shapely all at once, with rabbit-hair bangs and a big beanie - an altogether pleasant-looking hipster. Ari, it was, and once they’d finished their drink, we convened on the pavement outside and initiated a calm nighttide walk down the Lighthouse District’s strip, where bustled folks more drunken than us and cars all ahurrying. All the while mosied we three, without direction save in conversation. Even under the influence, Ari was keenly reserved, though comfortably conversable, and pervaded by a kindness they seem only to want for the rest of the world. All the words off their lips came from them smiling, even if minutely so. All the ideas expressed felt as though confided in me personally, and all the ideas with which I reciprocated were received similarly, such that it encouraged me to act less myself and more like Ari. I’m an asshole! That shouldn’t happen! But a model introduction Ari offered me, and why should I have ever thought less for the man who once welcomed me around his hearth and amongst his laidback crowd?
“I’ve just had this need, for a long time - though it’s developed - to make my thoughts happen, to see these visions I see in my head and see them in real life - it blows my mind that we, as people, can do something like that,” says this bard, Vincent Randazzo, with some regret. It seemed he recalls times when his vision was not reflected, but refracted into the real world, times when the vision became distorted, or when it seemed to lose meaning, or was simply lost itself in the infinite subjectivity of human criticality. Vincent’s visions, however, are clear to no one except for Vincent. They are worn on him as rustic and homely clothing and shoes with holed soles, or perspired from his pores during vigorous performances and thrashing of his guitar. The first time I saw Vince, it was at East Village cafe, within my first month of residence in Monterey. I had made the excursion for sake of a jam session with the surreal talent of Paul Jones (who has also made some sweet dance music), when I entered the establishment and found a bearded lad laden with a river of curly hair, wearing a thick, plaid blazer and pleated trousers. He sang with a grin, and he strummed with a belief in the words he sung. Some songs I heard and they tasted strange on my tongue for their righteous politics, but others, especially in their raw form, made so whimsical a sensation manifest that I wanted only to drive down a straight, long road and pop his CD into the disc drive.
Then I heard the product in its studio form, Vince’s 2016 album, Home Life, and though I offer to it a hearty nod for such songs as the title track, I questioned then the fulfillment of one’s vision. The reason I detail here my first meeting with Vincent is not entirely for sake of his character, but too for the sake of detailing this new EP that he and Ari Edwards have crafted. There are few artists in Monterey who will so profoundly for experimentation as do these two. A beacon of creative spirit, is this Bedrooms EP, for Vincent, who is responsible for most of the production on the album, fosters a genuine desire in both the emotions and the schematics of art. The EP was designed, however, around the eccentricity of Ari’s singing. Though they remain true to the ukulele-brandishing singer-songwriters that saturate the modern musical market, a contemporary and thoughtful swing adds contrast to their singing, as a bright sun on a dense forest makes stronger the daylight as it does too the shadows. It is the improvised progressions, the fluidity with which the words attack each beat that forge the jazziness I reference in their voice, wherein progressions straddle entire octaves and employ a shortness of breath between wailings, and a keen vibrato that is implemented with caution. From the songs Nostalgia (both parts one and two) and Piece of My Heart is the ukulele strumming one might expect. Though exhausted the techniques sometimes feel, Ari trifles not with mimicking like artists. What contrast else there is, however, obscures my capacity for appreciation of this EP.
Composure is an aspect of musical engineering that is often diminished by the veneration of technical instrumental talent. Gersmudgeny music-listeners might impose classic rock and prog and good ol’ blues guitar upon those less worthy than they of arbitrary opinions, and they might insist that contemporary movements, such as electronic and synthetic music, hip-hop and industrial and whatever else have you, are talentless for their lack of instruments. I would remind those people that the dominant musical movement for numerous centuries was classical music - and the figure most revered of a classical piece is normally the composer who had spent the creative process with but a piano for reference, and a pen and paper for writing. Ask any classical composer, then, of the ease in making fluent that amalgamation, even if but for a string quartet. I imagine they would become upset by the mere inclusion of the word ‘ease’ in a conversation about composure. It is a grueling task, and when it is not a medium wherein the science makes the art - such as classical, progressive, and electronic musics alike - then the composure is best allotted to the instrumentalist, that they might discover where they best flow in between their fellow components. The Seatbelts is a fantastic example of this; a band somewhere within sixty to seventy members strong, all theoretically composed by one brilliant lady named Yoko Kanno. What secret has she, to operate with so many tools, so many more genres and fusions than any band has the courage to emulate? The objective with Yoko was never precision, it was never the mastery of a meticulous design, but rather it was the cauldron she stewed, the heat that she administered, such that sixty-something distinct individuals can make a cohesive sound out of the personality in their own playing. The vision is made more efficient when interpreted by more than the viewer. Art is meant to be shared.
This, despite all the aspiration and character and fervor to which my heart calls out, is where stumbled Vincent’s feet along the path towards Bedrooms’s completion. For all of the vigor of what emoted of the EP, for Ari’s wonderful voice, for the efforts of Marcus Wade and others who put in work, for Vincent’s comprehension of her tone and valor in attempting its marriage with instruments, still was the album over-composed, when it was much stronger raw. Or it may very well have proven stronger if only a true band had built upon Ari’s singing - rather than profuse dubbing - and offered their inputs in compilation. Although it seems counterintuitive, Vincent’s stitchwork felt quite seamed when sown alone - whereas more busy hands, or less cloth, might have smoothened the seams. Perhaps the minimalism of a pea coat better befits his handiwork than the tedium in calculating a tailcoat’s measurements. Perhaps he sows most bountifully, yields most flavorfully, in soils less fertile. Whatever the cause of his stifle, I commend most the character of the album. As aforementioned, Ari and Vincent are a partnership that sails swiftly, and modestly too, at that, even if their refinement of taste and reservedness of demeanor would make ill some sailors who espy them on the horizon. Those ships only need shorten their berth and raise their colors, or they might as well beat the winds back from whence they came. If the shanties that make labor their crew are what avert you, then… yeah, fuck off, guy. Perhaps my opinion of Bedrooms is not of prime altitude, but here we have ourselves not only a radiant creativity from Ari and Vinny’s product, but too a music scene sardine-packed with pretentious cunts, like me. And if half of them didn’t retain at least a mouthful of criticisms to spit on these blog-posts of mine, just as have I in these confangled reviews, then more is wrong with our scene than the content produced therein.

Thanks again, guys, for paying me a click and my writing some attention. Much appreciated, really. Ari Edwards has not released any social media pages or even the full EP of Bedrooms yet, and so I’ve no links for her. Vincent Randazzo, however, is well acquainted with the business, and you can study the fruits of his labor on his Bandcamp page.

If you want to get in touch with the author for some reason, hit me up at widmer.wyatt@gmail.com.

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