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Graham Lambkin - Softly Softly Copy Copy

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Artist: Graham Lambkin

Album: Softly Softly Copy Copy

Label: Kye

Review date: Mar. 12, 2010

Water flows all over Graham Lambkin’s Softly Softly Copy Copy. It’s the star of the album’s first track, and part of the supporting cast in the second, and remains one of the most clearly recognizable sounds within Lambkin’s mélange. In his collages, Lambkin obfuscates the ordinary and magnifies the incidental, creating new contexts with the sounds that surround him. Softly Softly Copy Copy may be all about symmetry in its title and organization (each of the two tracks runs exactly 20 minutes and 40 seconds), but the music lacks such obviously logical order. Birds intermingle with violins, and water is interrupted by a dam of electroacoustic gristle. You can never be sure what you’ll hear next, much less why you’re hearing it.

Lambkin’s use of environmental and animal sounds projects a back porch vibe, and though all the sounds weren’t collected in his upstate New York environs, it’s easy to imagine much of the disc as a documentation of Lambkin’s surroundings. Meditative moments feature calling birds, a bubbling stream, and wind chimes in the distance. Menace makes its appearances, too, whether in the form of a huffing, growling animal or the noisy ambience that Lambkin introduces into his menagerie. His sound sources were disparate in original location, but in Softly Softly Copy Copy‘s final mix, the whole spectrum seems to exist in a single setting. The more abstract ingredients, whether the mangling of tape, manipulation of microphone, or natural sounds recast in new light, both accompany the domestic and obliterate it outright. The incorporation of this wide array follows an erratic path, and while specific sound combinations and evolutions make sense, the larger trajectories of the album’s two tracks can be confusing. Intrusions can feel as brash as a bulldozer through a backyard, or a draft through an old window frame. As a whole, Lambkin’s lo-fi collage sounds more concerned with compilation than cohesion. This makes for some compelling and surprising music, as well as intermittent frustration.

Samara Lubelski’s somber violin opens the album’s second track, with various sounds packed into the spaces between the strokes of the bow. There’s little timbral or thematic continuity between the accompaniments, but the violin keeps things cohesively afloat. Softly Softly Copy Copy could use a bit more of such glue for the sake of the album’s unity. This disc puts the listener in some interesting spaces, and blurs the lines nicely between the familiar and mysterious, which makes the inscrutable arrangements on the disc all the more irksome when they arrive. The entire disc is steered via Lambkin’s enigmatic musical compass, and if one can resist the urge to play backseat navigator, the route is a fascinating one.

By Adam Strohm

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