Some of my favorite music is the result of experimental musicians deciding to explore pop songwriting. There’s something irresistible about the combination of traditional song craft filtered through the minds of more “forward-looking” composers. This music often subverts tonality/structure while rendering the abstract accessible when framed within a new context. It’s for this reason that I constantly return to the works of Jim O’Rourke, C.S. Yeh, John Cale, Blue “Gene” Tyranny,” Julia Holter, Richard Youngs, and other like-minded artists who recognize the potential for both pop and experimental music to grow with tasteful cross-genre pollination.
In recent months, Joseph Raglani has posted several tracks to his SoundCloud that clearly show his craft moving further into a pop territory while still incorporating or acknowledging his status as a synth guru on Editions Mego. Of course, Raglani is no stranger to dabbling in pop music, given tracks like his slice of robo-pop bliss “The Exploded View” (from last year’s Real Colors of the Physical World) and the frequent song-like structures that even his most sprawling works take. However, these newer tunes have progressed into full on forays into folk/pop music. First, there was Raglani’s gloriously fractured electronics and voice take on Big Star’s “I’m in Love with a Girl,” then the Richard Youngs-esque “I Can Only See Your Face,” and then the spare folk tune “Three Days A Week.” With each one of these tracks, there’s been less and less reliance on the electronic elements that permeate the composer’s most well-known works, but there’s always been an element that’s indicative of his world in some form or another.
“Start Over” is Raglani’s self-proclaimed attempt at “a Leonard Cohen thing,” and while there’s an element of that present, the tune is more reminiscent of fellow Cohen disciple Simon Joyner’s more recent work and the similarly pop/experimental mixing Leafcutter John. At first, “Start Over” may seem like a far cry from Raglani’s electronic world, with its gorgeous multi-tracked vocals, layered violas, and looping guitar figures, but listen closely and it becomes apparent that Raglani is using these elements the same way he uses synths. The arpeggiated guitar figures could just as easily be burbling synths; the violas could take the form of lush electronic pads; and “Start Over’s” chord progression is just as modal and beautiful as the harmonic language of Raglani’s experimentally-minded works. It’s always exciting to see artists transmogrify the structural/technical aspects of their craft into something that’s stylistically new, and Raglani’s forays into the folk/pop world have whet my appetite for a full-length of this stuff.
Listen to “Start Over” here:
• Raglani: http://www.soundcloud.com/raglani