Saddle Creek | Broken Spindles | Reviews



Author: Matt Schild
08/09/2005 | | | Feature
There are so many cheap downloads, so many easy-to-use software suites and so many readily available resources for today's electronic musicians, it's increasingly too easy to boot up the laptop, fiddle around with production software for an hour and emerge with a twisted mass of excessively manipulated samples, 102-track ambient arrangements and convoluted 12-bar beats. Technology's made making electronic music simple. Perhaps it's too simple as so many producers fall under its spell and overindulge their arrangements, cluttering them with noises, textures and sounds obscuring the basic songwriting at work.

On Inside/Absent, Broken Spindles' third album, Joel Peterson moves in the opposite direction. The Faint and Beep Beep bassist travels down the road of barebones arrangements, indulging in a sparse aesthetic reminiscent of Trent Reznor's more open-ended songwriting, though adopting a much more techno-ready and simple sound than anything to come out of the Nine Inch Nails camp. It's even a lot more basic than Peterson's last album as Broken Spindles, Broken/Complete (Saddle Creek), leaving a good chunk of the programming and extra tracks behind on the new album.

The result is an album of songs that don't rely upon their technological genesis for their life. Although Inside/Absent is surprisingly, sometimes shockingly minimal for modern electronic music, Peterson's never sounded so personable or human as Broken Spindles. Heck, few of his contemporaries eschew displaying programming proficiencies in favor of such straightforward songwriting. Adopting a confessional attitude toward his lyrics, Pederson becomes a singer/songwriter of the new millennium he's exchanged a battered acoustic guitar in favor of indietronica workings, but otherwise the direction is the same: cut out all extraneous bits of music to spotlight a few carefully chosen lyrics.

Peterson is no Conor Oberst or Patti Smith. He's not even a Ben Kweller or Tracy Bonham. Pederson's lyrical abilities hamper his quest to become a top-shelf electro-singer/songwriter, but they don't completely derail Inside/Absent. Broken Spindles offers enough in the way of arrangements to make most of Pederson's work more interesting than his awkwardly self-confessional lyrics would allow of their own accord.


LP / CD / MP3