Wednesday, August 31, 2016
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: AARON COMEAU - EXILE
When was the last time you bought an instrumental collection? And I don't mean classical or jazz or soundtracks, something that is commonly vocal-less. Our popular listening habits have changed dramatically in the last four decades, and even Booker T. Jones sings on his albums now. It might surprise folks to realize that back in the late 50s and early 60s, bands often just played instrumentals at gigs, including guitar fans such as Neil Young and Randy Bachman.
There are retro surf bands, and of course, the beloved Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, but they have been so few and far between, and often it's raunchy guitar rock for guitar fans. Subtle and quiet music is darn hard to find, especially if you want something fresh, modern and smart.
This is the thing, then. Aaron Comeau is an up-and-coming producer and instrumentalist from Toronto, with credits ranging from The Skydiggers (the band's go-to touring guitar player) to Sam Cash to Al Tuck. He runs his own studio, and has put together this all-instrumental set in a unique package. It's a box of five EP's, running from 11 to 28 minutes, each with a different style and theme. He handles the bulk of the playing, either piano, pump organ or guitar, but it also includes two sets and one loose cut featuring a trio with upright bass and drums.
Mood music is the wrong term, for all its connotations, but moody is right. Both the first and fifth discs, This Is What It Sounds Like and Hymns For My Father, are contemplative, and feature a familiar, antique sound that includes the full, rich chords of church music, Protestant hymns. It reminds me of what Garth Hudson said of The Band's so-called rural and Southern music, that much of the melody could be found in the Anglican hymnals he played from in his teens.
The Early Winter set features the trio, and tackles that most Canadian of feelings, when we welcome back the winter, with those touchstones of our identity; the first snowfall, the shorter days, the first time skating. Themes repeat, patterns emerge, heartwarming notes and inspiring chord changes feature in music you feel as much as you hear. Reverence, or The Rise & Fall Of The Good Ship Mathilda is the wild card set, a total improvisation with the trio, the experimental piece.
Exile would be a brave release at any time, even more so as a debut. In a world where we've lost some of the experience of actually stopping and listening to music, and feeling what it's about, perhaps it would make a good debut instrumental album for you. You can find it at aaroncomeau.bandcamp.com/.