Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Breathing Lessons

Take a Deeep Breath
Cabe Lindsay

With its refreshingly extroverted and positive lyrics, this LP from Montana-to-Austin songwriter Cabe Lindsay has a warm, personal touch that's usually absent from releases in the electro-acoustic style. The compositions mix live instrumentation and programming in unassuming fashion. Although live drums and laptop beats alternate on the songs, the record has an overall confident style that gives it flow. The songs, and not the changing instrumentation, are what leave the greatest impression. It's with the vocals that Lindsay experiments most, reinforcing his justified faith in the strength of these songs. He can bring in a female singer ("A Diamond Met a Pearl") or experiment with harmony ("Potter") or vocal effects ("Be Here Now") and all the tunes remain recognizably his own.

What's most invigorating about Take a Deeep Breath are the lyrics. Lindsay's interests in faraway vistas and Eastern philosophy are typical for the style, but his use of humor ("Be Well Bee") and his excellent storytelling are anything but. "Dead Body Falls Naked Off Cliff" has a ripped-from-the-headlines subject like Jad Fair and Yo La Tengo's Strange But True album but the witty rhyme scheme and tongue-in-cheek elements of the lyric mean the song actually improves on the great title. Nathan Zavalney's sympathetic mix intelligently seats the vocals in such a way that they enhance the stories Lindsay is trying to tell, as on "She Opted for Scuba Diving" and especially "Potter," where the singing takes form like the work of the subject would. The combination of Lindsay's unpredictable and original lyrical images and the stylish, modern production enhances both elements.

There are a few tunes that are more production experiments than full-fledged songs, and the extended instrumental sections are aimless in a way the stories never seem. With a few exceptions ("Travel in Your Mind to Mexico" is gorgeous) the vocal melodies are a little bland; there's a lot of simple tri-tones that the skilled layering of harmony and production doesn't entirely redeem. In sum, though, Take a Deeep Breath is a one-man project that strikes a rare balance between varied instrumentation and song styles and a strong, recognizable, and original creative pulse that runs through all the tracks.

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