Brent Arnold and The Spheres
Usually it’s hit or miss when producers make the transition to performers. It’s nice when a quality arranger/producer gets to step out from behind the knobs and boards and breathe the air on the other side of the recording studio’s sound-proofed partition. Brent Arnold has had a virtual monopoly on the Seattle indie rock string section for quite a few years, lending a hand to Modest Mouse, Quasi and 764-Hero, among others. On Last Boat, Arnold displays a definite talent for crafting string-heavy rock music. Not surprising, it’s the orchestra that determines the pace of the album. A prime example is the lyric-less “Kudalini,” which doesn’t push beyond a half time beat even when the bowed instruments are out of the picture. The best track, “I Will,” is full of sweeping vistas and Arnold’s baritone drawl, strung together with ringing guitar underpinnings. The treated viola and operatic chorus even echo ’70s prog on the extended outro.
Arnold’s maiden voyage isn’t without its flaws, though. At over six minutes, “I Will” lives up to the promise of its introduction, while some songs are over conceptualized, but underwritten. “To the Sea” tacks on nearly three minutes of rehashed rhythms with little or no variation while Arnold endlessly repeats the title refrain. Also, by the time the seventh track rolls around, the constant lurching ebb and flow of the music begins to drag into monotony. Hopefully, the album’s title isn’t indicative of Arnold’s songwriting career, because I’d like to hear more, especially if he’s able to shore up these noticeable holes the next time around.