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Sarah Rabdau, Benevolent Apollo (self-released)
Sarah Rabdau's debut release, Benevolent Apollo, features club beats, piano and synth work, and Rabdau's voice. The album shares some traits with Poe's Haunted, but this one's more restrained and, frequently, more melancholy. She did most of the work herself, but Rabdau had considerable help, getting drum programming and production from Eric Jalbert and live instrumentation including guitars by Jeff Wragg and [munk]. A string trio appears on several tracks, but the cellist and violinist perform subtly. Instead of creating drippy sentimentality, the group adds to the type of ambience created on the rest of the track. Rabdau's own synth-playing provides most of the mood; while she occasionally works out a melody line or sets a groove (as on "Karma Song"), she mostly sticks to harmonic ambience. Rabdau's lyrics tend to be straightforward musings on separation and distance. Tracks like "I Tried to Reach You", "I Was Wrong", and "Onlyone" deal with lost loves and deserters. Rabdau's unwilling to give in, as she expresses in the ambivalent "85 and Breezy". The album closes with a hint of optimism in "So Many Millions...", in which she offers advice on fear and the future. While the lyrics are banal ("Don't accept what they say"), the message has impact, especially coming at the end of Benevolent Apollo. Rabdau seems likely to take her own advice and become more experimental. Until then, we've got this well-crafted but fairly standard record to tide us over.