CD REVIEW: Graves - Seldom Slumber
By J.D. Stefan
Graves is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Greg Olin (formerly of the band York Roberts). Graves has a pretty minimal web presence in the form of a MySpace page and an artist link on the Hush Records site. The CD Tommy McDonald, Nate Ashley, Corey Gray, Ghong, Lee B., Kyle F., Branden E., Julia+Nina, #10ís Little Wings, Melissa U., Amanda Lawrence and Olympia Sisters in addition to Olin. No mention is made of the contributing memberís roles or instrument. Graves describe themselves as progressive/blues/crunk on the MySpace site. Seldom Slumber is a 2007 release. I was disappointed not to find more info on the band and the CD itself as some of the links and info on the Hush Records site were broken making it appear that it hasnít been updated or maintenance in a while.
The CD begins with a lazy, loose track titled ďStraight NineĒ and itís pretty apparent that Graves is centered on (presumably) Olinís voice and guitar. The vibe is decidedly low-key and loose. The track ďDead DogĒ is an improvised-feeling instrumental. Calling it a jam would be overstating, the track is pretty mellow with some interesting production elements. Overall this is a very relaxed and open collection of songs in the singer/songwriter vein. Olinís voice is mellow, the instrumentation has a lazy sort of feel to it and it all essentially comes together to create a unified sound thatís fairly distinctive. Listening to songs like ďIím Feeling TuffĒ and ďBe LeeĒ give me the impression that this is a group of friends that got together under Olinís banner to record his songs and have some fun. The loose atmosphere seems to reinforce that impression and the result is a kick-back-and-chill collection of Olinís quirky songs. The recording itself is simple and straightforward and sounds a bit like it was all recorded in one room together. The instrumentation is clear however and the mix suits the informal style well. Seldom Slumber canít really be called lo-fi since the basic audio quality is pretty good but itís certainly lacking the polish and sheen that would give it a little more pop. Thereís distinct analog warmth however that reminds me of cassette mixes (and not necessarily in a bad way). The CD art is an interesting blend of apparently unrelated images featuring a coastal shoreline on the cover, a 6-point elk or moose on the rear and some free-hand scribble/line art in the liner and CD face.
Iím not sure if the progressive/blues/crunk tag on the bandís MySpace site was meant seriously or tongue-in-cheek as itís not really indicative of the music on the CD. I feel itís certainly more in the indie/singer/songwriter category but there is a hint of the blues in there at times (ďKampu Blues, ďGrupe ParkĒĒ). The mix is consistent but I think the rhythm section could have been pulled forward to help the groove on some tracks as it remains understated throughout the disc (admittedly this could certainly have been the bandís preference). After about the third song I began to want some variation that never really came. The formula for the songs was similar other than a couple of the instrumentals and often didnít really take me anywhere. Although I think there are some spots with real potential, Seldom Slumber for me does the reverse Ė it begins to slumber and fall into the background, nicely but not commanding attention or my listening span.
I'm sure that Seldom Slumber hits Olinís creative license and heís made a record that seems like it was fun to do with friends and no big expectations. For me, I wish there were some more standout tracks and more dynamic energy rather than the fairly flat dynamic and mood that pervades throughout.
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