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Vase - By the river

We’ve said it a jillion times: if you wanna get bumped to the top of of our “to review” list, either make a phenomenal thing, or send it to us on vinyl. Vase has done both with the new By The River 7".

Vase is the recording outlet for Bristol’s Stephen Lane. It’s pretty melancholy, and relatively quiet. Dropping the needle on this four-song record will remind you that music does not exist until someone takes the time to make it. Without the attempt, we’d be left with utter silence. Stephen Lane seems to work in that mindset. Not so much trying to cut through a radio silence, but rather working with it.

Side one is a wonderful exercise in minimalism. An ascending piano line matches Stephen’s low-cut voice, with occasional help from other instruments that stray ever so slightly from the tuning at hand. I mean it… the tonality doesn’t match by a mere hair, but that slight dissonance in “Apple, Table, Penny” underlines the fact that some records are meant to simply exist and not to work towards recreation on the terms that a stage would allow. Would the song be less beautiful onstage? Probably not, but it also might be only slightly less effective.

The flipside’s winner is the painfully quiet “Soft Knees”. Just a hand-plucked acoustic guitar that doesn’t beg for more volume, nor does it call for Lane’s voice to rise above a whisper. The more astute listener may be reminded of Syd Barrett’s “Word Song” if it had been properly finished, and what it might have been capable of. Just a rumination based on some root notes, cut with seemingly disconnected lyrics like “Sarcastic talent / Face to match / Like a goose / Cat’s piss”. Although the heavily compressed piano in “Crab Apple” is pretty otherworldly, too.

Vase is one of those recording acts that reminds us that communication can sometimes be more effective through a whisper, and a gently breeze can sometimes fuck you up worse than a full on hurricane. Highly, highly recommended.

By Marc at RetroLowfi January 2009.

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