Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sean McCann - Frame of Mind (Stunned Records CS)

A couple Sean McCann tapes up today that I've been waiting to cover for a bit, as each one is represented by two of my favorite labels, Stunned and DNT. Figured I'd start out with the Stunned as there's a bunch of Stunned to get through and I'd love to try and hit them all before they're all sold out from source, though that's been happening faster and faster these days. Nice to know that people are finally catching on to the action over there, and especially that a lot of people seem to just be getting it all (judging by the out of stock bonus by The Doglands, also soon to be reviewed here), which is the right move every time over there.

Anyway, when I heard Stunned was putting out another Sean McCann release. The first on Stunned, Sway, seems to have been a catalyst somewhat in McCann's well-deserved cred, but this follow up may be even better. If McCann has proven anything of late, it's that he can blow minds in all modes, and this tape is no exception. Opening with the title track, a blend of bowed strings and drone that soon dissolves into battered rhythms and odd spaces, McCann sets out running here, and the results are as carefully constructed and gorgeous as one could hope. Really some next level stuff. While a lot of people seem to be getting into the new age drone vibe these days, McCann keeps it interesting through his distinctive voice and instrumentation, as his bowed banjo emits snippets of Oriental waterlily ballads while the thudding string tugging and skittering electronic sequencing entrap the center and allow it to breathe easy.

Another aspect of McCann's expertise lies int he quality of the recordings themselves, which are treated as carefully as the music insinuates. So many people working in this world have a major jones for lo-fi murky drone, and really it's tough to not love it, but while a project like Skaters benefits from that aesthetic, allowing each sound to blend into the other in a propelling momentum, McCann's calls for a clearer production that allows every detail of his sound to come through. The following "Slight Manner," also with drifting strings and drone, is as crisp and illuminated as the sounds within. With each instrument as audible as it is, the different pockets of detail found over the course of a number of listens is exponentially increased. The feel is as vibrant and gentle as the sounds themselves.

The second side divides itself between three tunes that further explore the depths McCann creates. The first, "Bending Through," opens with a glistening electronic line that phases in and out above thick, aired out bass. It is absolutely immense and beautiful, soon slipping into an odd song of sorts, with drums and clatter carrying the piece forward. Not so much cosmic as its sounds might entail, the piece always sounds grounded in some sense, remaining that much more captivating for it. There's almost an Animal Collective / Black Dice vibe to this, only without any of the self-consciousness. "Colors" follows with another mini tune that eventually winds up leading (or should I say swaying) into the closing "Homeroom," whose vocal croons and lazy percussion evoke the tropical vibe everyone seems to be seeking these days, only in a far more dense and nostalgic way than most pull off. It's a beautiful tape, and of course beautifully packaged and (yeah!) still available from Stunned, so go grab two!

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