Letters “Letters Plays Selections from the Tapestry Songbook”

October 21, 2010
By Daniel De Los Santos

In recent years, there has been a turning away from technology – artists want and need the sound to be dirty.   They desire cassettes, broken four-track recorders and analog hiss even though they live in a digital age.   The greatest paradox is that these artists need digitized social communities – without these technologically advanced tools their music could not spread (legally or illegally).  A paradox of sorts that does not allow this reach for simplicity to go further.  At the end of the day, these artists are just rebelling against what has become the norm.  As rebellion that is cyclical in nature as their once was a time when the movement was toward all things digital.  Either way, we are fortunate to be part of an amazing time in music creation and production (analog or otherwise).  Psychedelia, drone and bedroom sessions have become the norm for those in search of sound.  Which leads us to this rough but somehow compelling presentation of audio voyeurism and intimacy.   In some ways this release is a reviewer’s nemesis.   Meaning I do not know how to say something bad about this album – at least, in the musical sense.   This isn’t because the music is fantastic but it is because of how intimate and raw the songs are.  The intimacy creates something special and private for the listener while at the same time increasing its musical worth.  The packaging itself feels homemade but not meticulously done.   Something a good friend might give you but definitely not an object of art (in the traditional sense*).  This home made creation is more than fitting for what is actually contained within: mistakes, off-key voices, found sounds, raw instrument playing, experimentalism (with a devil may care attitude) and a sensation that it was dubbed once or twice before it was put on a CDr.  Overall this is lo-fi american weird with a strong emphasis in folk.  However, intimacy of this magnitude is tricky because it can lead to problems.  Basically, Letters is sharing their unfiltered bedroom recording sessions and at times, it is too much – it is like I am listening to a recording that only meant to be heard by those who created it.  At best we are left out of the process (or the joke?) and at worst its just creepy.  All in all this adds a weight to the music that shouldn’t be there.  The music should feel more loose, whimsical and not confined.  So what does this all mean?  It means the release is worth your time but you should realize you are listening to the lives of others.  Get ready to become the fly along wall but don’t forget to sing along.

*I didn’t feel like I should ramble on in this paragraph but I realized that this was a loaded statement.   After all, art really is where you find it.  What I really mean, is that is not art for the fanatical.  I am thinking of special releases that are beyond clever and come with everything you might need to summon a deity while tripping out (of course, limited to 23).  Hmm, a review with a pseudo-in-text citation – now that is pretentious.


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