Saddle Creek | Now It's Overhead | Reviews


Now It's Overhead

Author: A.K. Gold
10/08/2001 | Nude as the News | | Album Review
Saddle Creek Records has made a name for itself over the last couple of years through its release of a broad range of musicians and bands from the label's hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. With Now It's Overhead's self-titled debut record, the label offers up its first full-length release from a non-Nebraska band. However, what the label has lost in geographic proximity, it has more than made up for in haunting pop songsmanship.
Featuring singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Andy Lemaster (most notably a contributor and engineer on many of Bright Eyes recordings), multi-instrumentalist Orenda Fink and keyboardist Maria Taylor (both of the brooding and ethereal Azure Ray), and drummer Clay Leverett, Now It's Overhead's debut effort traces the erratic rise and fall of a romantic relationship atop arrangements that vary between sparse ballads, slow-tempoed rockers, layered pop songs and even a dark dance track.
Opening with a baroque-like keyboard progression and a rat-a-tat-tat drum beat, the first track "Blackout Curtain" aptly introduces Now It's Overhead's simple but engaging instrumental work. Exploring the transitions between night and day as well as confusion and coherence, the story culminates in the harmonized chorus, hopefully pleading "Don't ever go away from here and I will never go away." Possibly the most startling track on the release is the dark, sparse and danceable "6th Grade Roller." Andy Lemaster's songs, throughout the record, rely on the notion that lyrics don't have to be fluid poetry because appropriate fragments can convey meaning just as well. And nowhere is that more apparent than on this eerie drum-machine and syncopated sample-induced track. As the song's tension and power increases, Lemaster's malleable syllabic emphases make the seemingly nonsensical chorus, "Fly around a ring. I fly around a ring," sound like a ritualistic chant that should be performed by naked witches circling a fire.
Continuing on the mildly primal bent, "What a Subtle Look" begins with a Lemaster's vocals only backed by the thumping of Leverett's hollow bass drum. As the story continues, simple piano chords fall in place and expanding and retracting samples subtly add to the mix. Finally, a muted choir of angels cries as the protagonist reflects on the fast rise and brutal fall of his relationship: "With a subtle look we would communicate. Now all the words we saved return to curse your name."
The only trying aspect is the seeming redundancy of song structures. They follow a pattern of slowly building dynamics, tension and instrumental layering, culminating at the end of each track. Despite this, the album's nine songs prove to be sonically unusual and hauntingly engaging, even as they explore the brutal loss and ire attached to the demise of most romantic relationships.


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