Title: The Solipsist EP
Artist: Tunnel Rat
Release Date: January 2014
Genre: Beatnik Blues
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Label: MAV 0kbps
So, I was contacted by the artist and asked if I could take a listen to his release. He seemed really eager to get some feedback, and was willing to wait for me to find some time to listen. Well, this release is relatively short, so I was able to sneak it into the queue pretty quickly and was pleased to hear Tunnel Rat’s inspired LoFi beatnik blues.
First thing about this recording: it’s definitely all live, open mic, and sounds like it was done in a single take (ie, each track was done in a single take, not the whole release). That is a refreshing thing to hear these days, when even most LoFi recordings are actually highly produced and engineered to achieve a specific type of sound (like Small Colin’s Tape Production, which I love to death, but really did follow a complicated engineering and production method).
Doing things live to computer recording like this makes a real difference. One of the things that is immediately apparent is the acoustics of the room around the performer. The room actually becomes almost an instrument itself, especially in this case, since it is not a studio. It’s a room with it’s acoustic quirks and character. This becomes even more apparent in this release on ‘No Festivals’ which is recorded in a different place – sounds like a mall (not to mention that this is the only song on the album that features both bass and electric guitar).
Second thing that is noticeable in this recording is the work that has gone into following much of the beatnik style of reciting spoken poetry over a musical accompaniment. In this case the accompaniment is bass guitar alone (except for ‘No Festivals’ as mentioned above).
The vocal / spoken parts are something of a double-edged sword in this release. While the style is well performed here, it feels like it’s an impersonation of the style. There is something that just doesn’t quite fit. The performance is definitely beatnik influence, but the performers relationship between his poetry and his music feels forced. In some cases phrases are rushed and swallowed or clipped off because of the cadence that is trying to be matched to the accompaniment.
And, while I understand this is a LoFi recording, the microphone leaves a lot to be desired. The sound is constantly changing as the performer moves his head around the microphone. The issue is obviously that the microphone is very directional, and not a cardioid pattern that would probably suit the performer better.
The thing that really stands out well in this recording is the bass accompaniment. The artist is quite accomplished with his instrument, equally at home playing walking lines, or chords, rhythm or lead parts. Often different parts are mixed interchangeably within the tracks themselves.
So, overall I would say this is an intriguing release. The artist definitely has skills and chops, now he just needs to refine them, work a bit on getting his poetry cadences to match the musical parts a bit better, and work a bit on recording skills. But, I for one will be looking forward to future releases from this artist.