Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Record review: The Pear Traps

Posted by Andrew Hertzberg

Last fall I had the privilege to conduct my very first interview for this site with local lo-fi masters the Pear Traps. They had revealed Basement Fidelity to the world and were playing around the city, anticipating a retreat to Tennessee where they would record their eponymous follow up. Although we only jokingly threw around the title “Cabin Fidelity,” it is immediately clear these guys have left the basement. They retain their character lo-fi sound, mostly due in part to the DIY aspect of the band (singer/guitarist Bryant Lee Howe builds all of the amps) that provides a certain homegrown charm.

For those that don’t quite dig the lo-fi sound, think about it like this: it’s not meant to be nostalgic, but rather a testament to their abilities in the craft of musical equipment and creativity in the recording process. The sound doesn’t come from a cheap Pro Tools plugin, but from the limitations (and advantages) of home built equipment and unique recording locations. Now! To the music:

Album opener "Come Home" starts things off musically upbeat, contrasting with the confused and ruminating wonderings about a wandering lover: “I’m wondering what to do / waiting here for you.” But the Pear Traps primary focus isn’t on the lyrics. With his baritone reaching as low as the fidelity they pride themselves on, Bryant’s voice generally stands alone, the reverb drenched vocals melding with the reverb drenched instrumentation. This allows for a greater effect on the introspective nature of the lyrics, when they can be picked out, as with the faux-surf "Honestly": “The lights go out / I think of things I shouldn’t think about.”

As the album goes on, the further into the layering we dive. At times I feel like I should be near an ocean listening to these sounds, but the band's Midwestern roots dictate this an EP more at home at a beach on the Lake. "Predictable Kinds of Thoughts" is a '50s slow rocker, followed immediately by the fast paced Replacements rock of "Safer Than You." Even with these juxtaposed tracks, the Pear Traps still have one problem in that the songs have a tendency to run together with their similar structures and chord progressions. But then again, the Pear Traps have been more about carving out an encapsulating sound, which they’ve achieved with the Joy Division-goes-Americana aesthetic. The EP closes strong with "Answer," which unleashes an ever-increasing tidal wave of a guitar solo before washing ashore into the entrancing closing rhythm and feedback.

The album is currently streaming on the Pear Traps' Bandcamp site, with "Come Home" offered as a free download. To drown in the reverb live, celebrate with the band at their favorite venue Cole’s for their EP release party on Friday, May 27th (FREE, 21+), where cassettes will be available as well. Can’t wait that long? Head to the Fireside Bowl on Tuesday April 26th where they play along with Videotape, We are the Willows, and the Bingers (8 PM, $8).

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