Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Spotlight On: Downtown Harvest

Cities like Philadelphia have wildly bustling music scenes in and around them, to the point that one can easily be tempted to look at a band like Downtown Harvest and, with nary a listen to their music, write them off as just another Philly band sweating it out in an overcrowded market. That, however, would be a colossal mistake. Here are four guys who know no boundaries. Across their two albums, they mix rock, funk, hip-hop, disco, R&B, jazz, rap, and electronica as if those genres are all one in the same. Electric guitars, keyboards, saxophones, and all sorts of percussive gimmicks drive most of the band’s arrangements. Each of DTH’s vocalists has his own distinctive sound, making for some attention-grabbing harmonies and vocal interplay. The band’s songs often employ sudden tempo changes, stops and starts, and other structural quirks, while their lyrics range from mysteriously poetic to downright unintelligible. In other words, if you’re looking for the next big thing in mainstream rock, keep looking. But if you’re looking for something truly different in a world of seemingly endless sameness, look no further.

Here’s the breakdown of DTH’s albums, both available from Malogna Records:

Downtown Harvest (2006): Impossible to categorize and quietly off-the-wall from start to finish. A subtle, fun album whose tracks tend to sound custom-made for a small houseparty. The presence of a continuous song sequence towards the end illustrates the point that this is more of a free-flowing, full-length statement than a collection of individual songs. Highlights of Downtown Harvest include the low key, mood-shifting “Rubber Band Song”; the funky “Hurry Before Worry”; “Hills of Beverly,” with its dreamlike new wave textures; the goofy quasi-electronica of “B.O.B”; and “Rattle On,” which has a lethargic, rootsy feel.

Golden Dragon (2007): Louder and more in-your-face than Downtown Harvest, Golden Dragon has more of a straight-ahead rock sound on its first several tracks, reserving its most daring experiments for its second half. Not as much of a cohesive statement as Downtown Harvest, but an entertaining collection with many strong tunes. Highlights include the kaleidoscopic “Full Circle”; “Something Elephants,” a bouncy, absurdist take on indie rock; the heavy New Orleans sound of “Four Hundo”; the psychedelic blues-rock of “MDK”; and “Clockwork Tangerines,” whose multi-movement construction is quite classical in nature. (No comments on the liner notes, which are said to resemble a Chinese food menu—this review is based on an advance press copy without full packaging.)

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Copyright © 2007 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.

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