Rafter Roberts has a quite the resume. With an already successful commercial background he turned to mastering albums for bands that include, but are not limited to, the Fiery Furnaces, Black Heart Procession, and label mate Sufjan Stevens. And with his first band reveling in punk music, an album from this type of brain would be hard to predict. And therein lies the beauty of Sex Death Cassette. Rafter confidently encompasses all these styles by creating a mosaic of sounds. The songs delve into practically every style an 18-track album can hold, and the result is exciting, refreshing, and one of a kind.
Rafter’s journey on this album almost feels like a literary stream of consciousness: he goes from thought to thought without judgement or nostalgia. He doesn’t fall in love with a theme and instead plays with colors and holds steadfast to his vision. Rafter has created a massive playground where he can pick up on idea and drop it just as quick. A large majority of the tracks stay under two minutes and it’s this brevity with an idea that demonstrates how Rafter is out to explore what he’s feeling as opposed to finding a structured beginning, middle, and end. One example is the shortest track, all 32 seconds of it. “I Love You Most of All” is as simple as it sounds and only incorporates the man and his guitar. He finds no need to dwell on something that’s pretty explanatory. He hits his mark and quickly moves on to the next track which, in typical Rafter style, is completely different in every way possible.
While Rafter is exploring with styles, he makes sure to distribute the same weight with each part. This shared spotlight fits hand-in-hand with the length of the tracks: there is no hint of self indulgence. From vocals to brassy horns and even the wee cowbell, each piece shares an equal part in the ensemble collective. Even the styles he jumps in and out of are evenly highlighted. One track Rafter will use synthesized sounds that create a futuristic ambience, next he’ll try dabbling with punk-inspired heavy power chords. After those itches are scratched, he’ll move on to tracks like “Thunderclap” that will make the audience get up and clap along. Instruments and styles will change often, but the drive beneath it all, pushing forward to the next idea, is Rafter’s own excitement to discover what’s next.
It’s difficult not to highlight every moment because they are individually intriguing, unexpected, and successful. Although styles Rafter explores may not be everyone’s favorite, he composes with combinations that succeed and grow on the listener. The tracks run all over the place in almost an impatient way, but there is still a quiet cohesiveness to this energetic mash-up of ideas. Sex Death Cassette is an exhilarating journey, and even moreso an honest one because it’s an album that stays completely true to the moment of its creation.
// Notes from the Road
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