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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Paul Duncan
To An Ambient Hollywood
Hometapes Records

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
I don't know about anyone else, but hearing good music from debuting artists is becoming more and more important. Often times early releases seem to show a true side of the musician without the public reaction of music consumers, record label executives, media outlets, et cetera. Debut albums are much like small children in candor and relentless love for Pokemon and macaroni and cheese.

Several main elements that build up the essence of Paul Duncan's freshman effort To An Ambient Hollywood are falsely indicative of him being a veteran producer and songwriter. Additionally amazing is the fact that Duncan, at only 23 years old, created and performed most of the music for To An Ambient Hollywood on his own.

One of the elements that makes the release seem insightful is the theme that it encourages. An insert that accompanies the album explains the Hometapes manifesto as, "To thoughtfully combine sounds and images in a new way." So part of the theme lies in just that- the relation of music to visual images and other arts. Even the title serves as a message or greeting line to a visual and performing arts homeland, Hollywood.

Is this reading too far into it? Probably. Or maybe a misanalysis? Maybe.

But still the album contains a combination of Duncan's musical creations with the visual contributions of J Penry (visit www.dropframe.net). In addition, the song titles tie back into the thematic portrayal with names such as, "Film Life," "Has-Been Actor," "Letdownville," "Asinine Feelings," and "Are You Embarrassed?" It should be noted that in this element of the concept behind To An Ambient Hollywood there is another aspect of failure that emerges and surrounds such a life.

The area of emotional distress is also vital to the album's entirety theme in more than just song titles and visual implications of Penry's comical, yet apparently serious caricatures (the drawings are supposed to be suggestions of common human absurdity- you be the judge). Many songs contain an edge of this sadness or disappointment, whether it's created through chord structures or the choices in instrumentation, such as empty saxophone solos and swaying violins. Even Duncan's vocals take the low road when he sings as if he is trying not to wake up someone in the next room.

There are moments of pure enjoyment throughout To An Ambient Hollywood, moments that disregard a greater significance. I think this is part of the reason why this album works; it seems like each song only cares about itself, but eventually melds into a greater album theme. "1 in 22" opens the record up with looping acoustic guitars and a snare-dancing drum beat. Beats throughout the album are mellow and laid back on the groove yet prone to induce head bobbing. One noteworthy instance is on "Asinine Feelings," which features the interplay of an electronic drum beat with vibraphone, note-dripping acoustic guitar and subtle trumpet lick.

The summary effect of Paul Duncan and his opening musical creation is somewhat like a more reserved Red Red Meat or an audio acquaintance to Nick Drake. If that doesn't sound tasty, you must not be hungry.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger

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