Kelley Stoltz - Below the Branches

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A more eclectic collection of instruments (slide guitar, double base, maybe a washboard and a weird almost underwater synthesizer noise) usher in Birdies Singing. It's a weird number, but compelling, like a lot of the rest of the album, very reminiscent of late sixties folky/psychedelic tracks like Traffic's Berkshire Poppies.
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Kelley Stoltz – Below the Branches

 

This is a brilliant album. In fact, I suggest you go and buy it without delay. I can say so with the confidence of a man who has played it constantly for the last few days, to the exclusion of all else. Yes, even Neu! And that should tell you something.

 

he likes this cd doesn't he?

Wave Goodbye starts with an orchestra tuning up and then suddenly changes into a thumping piano-based beat, very reminiscent for some reason of John Cale's Hello, There off Vintage Violence. Stoltz sings a lilting ballad that compliments this thunderous accompaniment very well. It's over very quickly indeed. Little Lords, is by contrast promises a much quieter affair. The song does threaten to break from its acoustic shackles at moments – with the help of some very sinister synthesizer and Will Sergeant-style guitar runs, but always returns to the reassuring melody that underpins the track.

 

Ever Thought of Coming Back is a strange affair sonically; an ungainly but compelling hybrid of The Last Time and Sugar Baby Love. The track tails out brilliantly on a fabulous repeat-chorus that, if I'd have my way would be at least an hour long. As it is, the song is two and a half minutes in duration, which is criminally short. Words is a beautiful and gentle meditation based upon a circular piano riff that rises and falls like the swell of a summer sea. The riff itself is offset by a lovely toy piano arpeggio run and some growling, rumbling guitar, which makes it (in this reviewer's mind at any rate) strikingly reminiscent of the more beautiful snippets off The Faust Tapes. The following track Mystery seems to carry on the vibe created by Words, though the arrangement is much sparser, closer to the Velvets than anything else. The tinkling arpeggio sound is still there, replicated this time around with xylophone.

 

Summer's Easy Feeling is a darker piece, the simple "Summer of Love" melody underpinned somewhat discordantly by thumping drums and weird electronic noises. Again, it's over very quickly, being more of a musical mood piece very much in the style of Harmonia's first album (albeit without the synths). Memory Collector returns to the opening bars of the album with the driving piano notes being the base of a Beatles-style number. Predictably (given the title and the whimsy inherent in the song structure) it's a song about a girl that Stoltz knew years ago. Well, what else would you expect? A more eclectic collection of instruments (slide guitar, double base, maybe a washboard and a weird almost underwater synthesizer noise) usher in Birdies Singing. It's a weird number, but compelling, like a lot of the rest of the album, very reminiscent of late sixties folky/psychedelic tracks like Traffic's Berkshire Poppies. The Rabbit Hugged the Hound could be straight of a John Cale lp... but my cynicism in noting this fact doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the song. As my dad would say, it's a Bobby Dazzler. A fabulously brisk piano run offset by some chiming rhythm guitar lends a lovely up-beat air to the proceedings.

 

The Sun Comes Through is a weird bar-room confessional, a bleary rather punch drunk beat allows Stoltz to unleash a rant about (amongst other things) a stereo. For some reason the song has a strange, moog-drenched ambience about it, very reminiscent of Roxy Music's The Bogus Man. It's a fabulous moment and one of the highlights on the album. Winter Girl is a meditative affair, a bitter-sweet serenade that suddenly turns into an ELO-style sing-along. The rather strangely named Prank Calls is a Skellington Chronicles style lo-grade tin-pot rumble through the backstreets. There's a humorous edge to this song that leads me to believe that it first saw the light of day in a bar. The last track, No World like the World is a rather maudlin acoustic number hinting at the eventual destruction of the rainforests or some such. I could be wrong and it could be a love song, but hell, who really cares?

 

Well, it's over. What do I think? This is a brilliant album that has the happy knack of sounding like everything and nothing and the even happier knack of not consciously being part of any scene. In that respect it is a genuine work of art (if I may be allowed to be so pompous in my appraisal). Below the Branches is well worth a listen at the very least.

www.subpop.com

 

Words: Richard Foster.