Is it fair to compare Rafter Roberts and Sufjan Stevens? As the two share both a record label and a flair for painting with a broad palette of musical colors, the side by side appraisals seem inevitable. Yet, an examination of the work Rafter (as he goes by) turns in on Music for Total Chickens proves such attempts superficial at best. The record’s 18 tracks display his distinctive penchant for a fragmentary, hyperactive approach to recording which seems logical considering his impressive resume (he has previously collaborated with such artists as Stevens, Fiery Furnaces and The Black Heart Procession) includes work producing music to accompany TV commercials. Jumbling together elements of folk, psychedelic pop, electronica, jazz, and even bossa nova, Rafter’s songs seem almost like tripped out ads for his unique brand of musical invention. Moments of sheer brilliance certainly exist on the record (the dance between electronics and vocals on “Gentle Men”, the harmonious outro of “Your War”) although there are just as many passages marked by disjointed, seemingly freeform noodling that will challenge all but the most patient. Though, at times, listeners must engage in a battle to uncover the spirit of Rafter’s work through all the segments and segues, his own words on “Your War” prove true: “This war’s worth winning.”
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// Notes from the Road
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