Album Leaf – A Chorus of Storytellers

January 01, 1970

(Sub Pop)


Nobody wants their music described as aural wallpaper — unless
you’re Eno and that’s your po-mo art statement. But too many musicians working the
chill-out ambient music field wind up as the hipster-set equivalent of New Age
elevator music. Thankfully, Jimmy LaValle, the composing mastermind behind The
Album Leaf, has not been one of them. Since launching as a solo enterprise 10
years ago, the former Tristeza/Locust/Black Heart Procession member has
consistently delivered evocative ambient textures, seamlessly blending
chop-shop processing and synth wizardry with organic beats and melodies – from
that standpoint, his latest continues a strong tradition of  layering keys, synths and guitars with big
beats (processed or organic) into complex textures that still come across as
pop songs.


But artists need to grow or risk becoming self-parodies, and
even LaValle admitted to a bad case of writer’s block after 2006’s Into the Blue Again as well as the need
to somehow shake things up. To that end, LaValle recorded with the full Album
Leaf band in tow for the first time, and sings more here than ever before
(vocals on four of 11 songs). But it’s questionable whether that worked, since A Chorus of Storytellers sounds much like
the last two Album Leaf records. There’s always been a dreamy, cinematic
quality to LaValle’s compositions, and there are the usual Album Leaf songs
that drift past like hazy summer days (“Blank Pages,” “Summer Fog”), or lonely
ones like “Perro” and “Tied Knots” that recall barren, wintry landscapes – both
kinds occasionally get the glitch treatment for variety.


LaValle’s former BHP band-member and not-so-secret-weapon,
violinist Matt Resovich, elevates every song he’s on with his aching laments
and soaring accompaniment, and the rest of the band deliver as well. But the
results are much the same, the differences minimal enough to be missed if
you’re not paying close attention. That’s not always a bad thing, since few do
this blend as prettily as LaValle. But that creeping sense of repeating himself
is also palpable.


Standout Tracks: “Blank Pages” “Tied Knots” JOHN SCHACHT


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