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Music

Computer vs. Banjo: Computer vs. Banjo

Here are two musicians who can harmonize, play a range of instruments and write good songs.


Computer vs. Banjo

Computer vs. Banjo

Contributors: Johnny Mann, Beau Stapleton
Label: Diagram
US Release Date: 2008-06-17
UK Release Date: Unavailable
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This disc is a real grower recommended if you enjoyed the dynamics and harmony of Fog’s excellent Dither record. Disregard the title and any over-reaching promo claims of experimentation: here are two musicians who can harmonize, play a range of instruments and write good songs. Holy Shit it’s a miracle! Hang on, though, since when was that enough? Part of the reason for adding digital doodles to the more traditional instruments, methinks. Crucially, they make the computer do their bidding; the blips and glitch are neither overdone nor gratuitous. All the songs have structure, and I suspect the duo (Mann & Stapleton) is melodic when they belch. Hopefully they are performing these songs out in concert, in Nashville.

Opening track “Jubilee” is nearly a mutation of Young’s “Powderfinger” and Dream Academy’s “Life in a Northern Town”. “San Joaquin” could slot into a Calexico set and in “Magazine Queen” they have written a good song set in New Orleans -- far more difficult that penning a clichéd one. “Concealed” is absolutely terrific, with a skittish melodic appeal, a haunting piano figure and fizzing percussion. “Guitars Need a Sinner’s Touch” is goose bump inducing and bouncy, albeit in a gentle, sad and lilting fashion. Final track “Signs of Passing Time” has an unfussy spaced out quality akin to a down-tempo Flaming Lips or Todd Rundgren. Just don’t try listening while playing Computer vs. Banjo Pong at the label website!

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