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Greg Davis - Curling Pond Wood

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Artist: Greg Davis

Album: Curling Pond Wood

Label: Carpark

Review date: Jun. 7, 2004

Curling Pond Woods is a pleasant wash of background ambience. The record slips by almost unnoticeably, in large part because of the music’s simplicity. Greg Davis creates a sound based on soft, mixed bird cries, with overlaid acoustic guitars and occasionally a keyboard. He uses his laptop computer sparingly when compared to 2002’s Arbor; the digital effects here hover around the edges of the songs, ready for quiet accompaniment but never as a structural or melodic foundation like his acoustic guitars. The result is stripped-down, elegant musing.

What keeps the record from becoming simply musical wallpaper is the intense focus of Davis’ instruments. Repeated motifs can become self-consuming and innocuous (cf. any Yo La Tengo record), but Davis aims for what is painfully emotional ambience. Much like Sufjan Stevens on his acclaimed Michigan, Davis seems to be performing to himself (and to the birds in the background). The self-reflection that underscores most of the wandering acoustic riffs creates the sense that we’re eavesdropping rather than hearing a performance of any kind.

While most of his music sublimely floats by, Davis’ use of vocals is questionable. Davis’ covers of the Beach Boys and the Incredible String Band are uncharacteristicly awkward. The last song of the album comes from ISB’s Wee Tum, “Air,” and Davis’ remake instead sounds like the last song of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. It works as an album-ender, and therefore makes more sense than the Beach Boys’ “At My Window,” featured smack in the middle of the album. I don’t fault Davis for not having the best voice, because that’s not here or there. The real problem is that the two covers seem to be at cross-purposes with the mood and tenor of the album, and though they provide a glimpse as to Davis’ influences, his own direction is much better executed.

By Joel Calahan

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