Robert Deeble – Heart Like Feathers

January 01, 1970

(Dead Letter)


Re: sounds that don’t grab the listener the
way chocolate did at first taste; there’s something to be said for hazarding a
re-listen, later.


Replaying Robert Deeble’s new set is
providing a case in point. A fortnight ago, the first several tracks reminded
me of listening to paint dry.  His
original “Suzanne” felt like an over-obvious hommage to Leonard Cohen that would be helpful should one run out
of sleeping pills.  Hearing the album
again today, I have the sensation of having been invaded. The first notes of
the title track seem oddly familiar; comfortable – perhaps even essential.


There are tricks to making music with
lots of space; guided by melodies that strike the ears with pillows rather than
hammers. Or maybe it’s just one trick. 
That would be the trick of no-trick; i.e., being awake to every… single…
sound (as when hearing music when in
an intensely relaxed state). This no-trick requires a healthy dose of self confidence
about one’s mind; one’s stories.  It
requires the nerve employed by Larry David when he created and pitched “a show
about nothing” (Seinfeld).


Of course, Deeble’s rather elastic voice
– buoyantly plaintive as Robert Smith of the Cure here; dry as Leonard Cohen
there – isn’t holding forth about nothing. As one listens to the words between
conservative snare beats, luscious single guitar notes, snippets of guitar
echo, shadowy viola and cello, and “ambience” (credited to Tim Wescott), one
realizes that Deeble is singing about a (probably lost/gone) love object.  The light, spare form of Heart Like Feathers disguises a songwriter who’s riddled (whether
or not he wants to be) with full, visceral engagement.


Deeble has made an album that initially
sounds like nothing; about a subject that has been covered by scores of  master songwriters (Jule Styne, Meredith
Willson, Paul McCartney) and tediously unoriginal 14-year-old poets. I’m not
sure I’d want to start rowing toward a deserted island without it.




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