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Danny Paul Grody - Fountain

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Artist: Danny Paul Grody

Album: Fountain

Label: Root Strata

Review date: Mar. 17, 2010


Danny Paul Grody - "Four Years" (Fountain)


You know what to expect from Danny Paul Grody’s first solo album if you’re already familiar with his previous efforts in the San Francisco-based outfits Tarentel and The Drift. Both groups helped define the sound of the Temporary Residence label: post-rock at its most epic guitar-crashing crescendo and at its wandering analog-ambient best. By himself, Grody is able to shake off most of the clichés surrounding the genre. He instead embraces his more esoteric influences to craft a richly diverse and gently stirring record.

These influences aren’t a secret (he came clean in a Dusted Listed feature), nor would they be if the Grody hadn’t been kind enough to outright share his current obsessions. They are apparent in the music of Fountain, but more in a reverential way than a plagiaristic one. From the intimate and rich sound palette of Mark Hollis to the experimental synth drones of Oneohtrix Point Never to the delicate folk of Richard Crandell, these guiding lights meld together rather nicely thanks to Grody’s musicianship and affectionate ear.

The most interesting force in Grody’s music, however, may be Toumani Diabaté. Grody attempts to translate the mesmerizing style of Diabaté’s kora-playing to his own guitar. There’s about a 15-string difference between the two instruments, so it’s obviously an approximation of the complex chordal and rhythmic patterns available on the kora — but Grody is a clever player. Each of the guitar-based tracks on Fountain feature a similar pattern: warm, cyclical arpeggios anchored by a softly rollicking bass line. There are none of the masterful cross-rhythmic improvisations of Diabaté, but the essence and backbone of his mellow side is utilized to great effect.

The first few songs of Fountain follow this placid West African folk-meets-elegiac American folk motif. “Route 1” introduces the drone element by way of deeply sighing accordion. The digital reverb begins to saturate the recordings with “Hungry/Haunted,” and by “Covered Mirrors,” the guitar is all but absent. In its place is an analog synthesizer whose melodic ambient haze is about as far from West Africa as you can get. The second half of the album intertwines Grody’s disparate influences into tracks like “Eve.” The mellow acoustic guitar melody, reminiscent of the album’s opening numbers, is wrapped in a swirling whirr of synth effects.

With all the talk of influences, it would be easy to chalk Grody up with a lack of originality. But if there is something not quite idiosyncratic about Fountain, there is definitely a striking degree of genuineness in the recording. The tone is melancholy and autumnal throughout, with elements of dream-pop, drone, ambient, post-rock, chamber music and folk from both sides of the Atlantic all mingling and sharing characteristics. Grody has crafted a charming album, and in this era of cyclical influence anyway, that’s about all you can ask.

By Michael Ardaiolo

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