Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Album Review: Selcouth Quartet - Selcouth Quartet

Selcouth Quartet
*** out of *****

The birth of the Selcouth Quartet was serendipitous as the foursome of Joe Russo (drums, keys) Stuart Bogie (saxophone, flute, clarinet, keys) Jon Shaw (upright & electric basses) and Jonathan Goldberger (acoustic & electric guitars) were supposed to play a show in Iceland that was canceled and the band were offered studio time at Floki Studios to record. The result is this 9 song collection of sonic soundscapes that ebbs and flows like the ice and glaciers that surrounded them while recording. 

Sometimes album artwork means nothing in connection to the music and sometimes it tells the full story. The barren shore pictured here tells the story of this album, as the icy waters and frozen climate are embedded in these sounds. Producer and engineer D James Goodwin captured the band over a few days as their environment clearly affected their musical output. 

Opener "100 Words For Wind" sets the tone it is meditative, ominous, slowly rumbling and building with bass and increasing drum tempo before Bogie's horns go weird along with Goldberger's guitars as the sounds recede back into the darkness, remining icy and distant. Squirrely guitar work enters at the six minute mark and the band then locks in more melodic to close. Listening while looking a the cover photo, you can almost feel the location feeding into the groups sound. 

Relaxed jazz with a sense of folk music colors "Smaller Horses" while Russo's deep drumming highlights the brief outing titled "The Hidden People". The idea of nature verse the digital world seems to be crucial to the quartet as "Gyr" colors things with digital sounds, while remaining at a cold distance, while "Unlimited Light" begins with natural oceanic sounds before using a very impressive groove from Russo to end.  

The standout effort arrives at the midway point as "Dragon, Bull, Vulture, Giant" is the best amalgamation of the groups talents. The song starts off with a cool groove, playing cinematic with warbling edges as Bogie and Goldberger run free with a strong base beneath them, before Russo and Shaw kick up the tempo for the second half of the track, with all the musicians coalescing around the upbeat tempo. "Before We're Sunken" is also a winner with mysterious vocals entering the first half of the song, while a dynamic closing is dramatic and well placed. 

While that would have been an excellent closing of the album, that idea of nature comes back one more time, and not for the better, as the group gives us random natural sounds for over ten minutes before coming in, wrapping up the record on an odd and ineffective note.    

The environment we are in certainly colors our life and Selcouth Quartet recording in Iceland certainly soaks through this debut. While Selcouth means peculiar, this album was fairly straight ahead, but for a first, unexpected recording, there is a lot to like from this quartet. 

Support the artists, buy the album, and peep some video below:

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