Brendon Anderegg’s third album is a diverse yet remarkably coherent collection of songs. Deploying a range of strategies from folky singer-songwriter moves to ambient driftworks and raggle-taggle band workouts, Anderegg avoids any charge of dilettantism through a careful accretion of sonic detail and a sure-footed way with a conversational lyric. The results are consistently fresh and appealing, and the album is sure to bolster Anderegg’s growing reputation in avant circles.
Atypical for this release, the appropriately titled first track “The Open” recalls Anderegg’s previous albums, Anomia and When Rectangles Roll Under Cities, with its busy, rattling drones. Shards of light pierce the gloom as the activity builds, and the piece develops through deft layering of sounds and effects. The album’s only other instrumental, “One More Year,” is a pleasantly loping arrangement for banjo and percussion.
Elsewhere, Anderegg recalls Brian Eno’s early song-based work on tracks like “Off To The Side” and “Street Lights.” Anderegg shares something of Eno’s undemonstrative vocal delivery, yet his voice is perfectly suited to the deceptively artless phraseology of the latter’s lyric: “Don’t go outside, maybe this time you won’t wake up/Don’t trace your next step, just count the street lights and death toll.” The warning note sounded here is couched in deliciously cool acoustic playing, with trumpet and glockenspiel darting around loose bass and drums. On “Off To The Side,” meanwhile, Anderegg’s clipped electric guitar runs mingle with propulsive drumming (courtesy of Jake Morris) and a delectable rhythmic swagger.
Anderegg and his band of accomplished musicians hold the listener’s attention throughout with short, perfectly concise musical statements. The formally elegant “Baby Bird” resembles a waltz, with the warm, soothing tones of the Fender Rhodes and the delicate moves of Jesse Peterson’s violin adding to the glowing atmosphere of the track. The folkish manoeuvres of “Rode, Riding To” and “What Were You Going For” differ dramatically from the intriguing, mysterious “The Holes” – the latter consisting of mumbled words, sparse percussion and haunting effects, and little else – yet the contrast makes perfect sense in the context of Anderegg’s mastery of these diverse forms. The excellent final track, “When They Were,” draws upon a heightening of recollected detail: “all the money that we spent buying things, alone in the ocean while the notes shake.” Its smoky sax and forlorn acoustic guitar provide a nostalgic, emotive end to a fine album.
(Originally published in The Sound Projector 14, 2005)