While most albums easily reflect the sum of their parts, Sean Carey's remarkable and audacious debut album All We Grow (August 24, Jagjaguwar) goes lightyears beyond that common adage. Best known as the drummer and pianist for Justin Vernon's Bon Iver, Carey happily ignores the boundaries of what might be construed as singer/songwriter territory for his tightly woven and abstract-centered songs, bringing in his classically trained and jazz driven percussive skills and admiration for modern minimalists such as Phillip Glass and Steve Reich. Melodies drift above densely constructed strata of unpredictable time signatures and electronic time-keepers, real instruments meshed with synthetic loops and Carey's own subtle, mesmerizing vocals.
Witness the lead track "In the Dirt", a 5 minute exercise in atmospheric moods and rhythms that simply can't be pinned down, repetitive piano lines initiating a throbbing reverberation as instruments join in, wander about and then drop out. The non-vocal mid-section of the song slows down to bare boned spaciousness and then things begin to build and sway serving as aural equivalent of movement and undercurrent. Fortunately, Carey's ability to also fashion a compelling melodic structure anchors the whole thing in place and keeps the loosely tethered structure from flying off into space. The word "chamber-pop" gets tossed around a lot, but it seems completely appropriate here in Carey's boldly cerebral musical adventures. Highly recommended.
S. Carey - "In the Dirt" (from the album All We Grow)
Photos: Cameron Witting