Brad Laner – Natural Selections

January 01, 1970



(Home Tapes)


Meticulously plotted daydreams, Brad Laner’s songs shamble
and wander through flowery psychedelic landscapes, all ease on the surface. Scratch
that surface, though, and obsessively pixilated detail emerges, a mesh of
intersecting layers and sounds that shifts measure to measure, second to second. The primary colors
may be Beatles psychedelia and Beach Boys-ish vocal counterpoint, but you can
also find little intervals of shoe-gazing guitars, electronic glitch, sound
collage, hip hop beat making and Hall and Oates-esque soul falsetto. On the
best songs – “Brain” for instance – Laner spins out swirling mandalas of
indistinct revelation, precision subsumed in clouds of intuitive feeling.


Natural Selections is Brad Laner’s second solo album,
like the first written, arranged, performed and recorded solely by Laner. Not
that he’s a newcomer. Before going solo, Laner was in a long list of bands, most
notably Medicine, but also Savage Republic, Electric Company, Steaming Coils,
Lusk Amnesia and The Internal Tulips. He started recording at home when his son,
Julian, was born. (The son, whose photo is on the cover of Natural Selections,
is the only other person on the album. You can hear him singing about “the
greatest dog in the entire world” on “Vicky.”) 


Laner is best when he weds hushed and indeterminate vocals
to intricate, hip-hop influenced beats, in a mesh of 1960s pop and latter day
electronica that might remind you of Nobody. “Throat,” for instance, floats
diffuse and dreamlike singing atop a soul funk foundation of drum and bass. Later,
“Crawl Back In” bubbles and froths over an exuberant four-on-the-floor
foundation. “Dirty Bugs” makes a cadence out of junk sounds and cymbals, its
syncopation alternating with soft, pretty intervals of 1970s pop. These songs
might easily float away on you, or dissolve into a puddle of melted prettiness,
but the beats give them structure.


You can tell Laner pays a lot of attention to sound, fussing
measure by measure over the exact textures that should underline and accompany
his melodies. It’s a shame he’s not equally dedicated to the lyrics, which tend
to evaporate on close listening into brief, not-very-meaningful phrases. “People
buy drugs in Lancaster,” Laner sings in “Lancaster”, for reasons
that can only be clear to him. And then, after a bout of pristine and beautiful
fuzz, he concludes “People sell drugs in Lancaster.”
“Eleanor Rigby” it’s not.  


Still this is one of those records that is defined by
personal vision, that puts considerable skill to work in realizing one person’s
ends without much thought about what the world will think. It’s like living in
someone else’s daydream for a while, its fantastical structures rendered with
vivid color and absolute precision. You could do worse.


DOWNLOAD: “Brain”, “Throat,” “Dirty Bugs” JENNIFER KELLY


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