Robert Stillman
Horses Mill Pond http://www.tinymixtapes.comsites/default/files/arton5381_0.jpg

[Mill Pond; 2006]

Rating: 3/5 3 / 5 (0)

Styles: modal jazz, improvised, Americana
Others: Kalifactors, Friends of Dean Martinez, Giant Sand


http://media.tinymixtapes.com/


Multi-instrumentalist Robert Stillman's debut as a band leader takes him far from the sounds of his modern day New York City home and into an America that's set somewhere in the early 1900s. To be fair, nothing actually reflects the 1900s musically, but Stillman has a dusty sound that calls forward imagery of cowboys, horses (duh!), old bankers, and industrial revolution relics. Considering song titles like "The Dance 2" and "Love Theme," there's no doubt that Stillman is shooting for a visceral, pseudo-cinematic experience.

What he's portraying initially just seems like the Old West, and it's hard not to be presumptuous when looking at sepia-toned artwork and hearing the album kick off with a rickety waltz ”“ the saloon doors are practically opening themselves here. It's not long before Stillman's background as a composer and improviser becomes apparent, and regardless of what imagery this album brings to mind, he can't avoid sounding more "high-art" than early 20th century country/folk music. Rather than representing a genre by imitation, Stillman chooses to acknowledge his own background, which actually keeps Horses from sounding cliché. It's also his intellect that makes this music thematically extend beyond the Wild West to paint a broader portrait of America. Stillman dusts off ghosts of east coast aristocracy, old alcohol, and New Orleans while always remaining objective.

Stillman's angular jazz melodies glide gracefully over intricate harmonies and impressionistic arrangements. Although his music is fueled by complex chord changes, it's remarkably humble and never flashy. Horses is often so unassuming that its details go unnoticed, but this only emphasizes that it's the perfect score to a film that doesn't exist. Its relaxed modesty is something that might fly over the heads of downloaders with short attention spans, or it just might be the perfect escape for iPods in the city. Although Horses initially seems a bit straight-laced for an ambitious New York fellow like Robert Stillman, its programmatic approach is successful. Film scores were never meant to dazzle, but rather accompany. Horses is full of smart compositions and beautiful arrangements, but much of it lies in subtlety. It's an album that's pleasant enough, but rewards patience and opens up with the more time you're willing to put into it.

Multi-instrumentalist Robert Stillman's debut as a band leader takes him far from the sounds of his modern day New York City home and into an America that's set somewhere in the early 1900s. To be fair, nothing actually reflects the 1900s musically, but Stillman has a dusty sound that calls forward imagery of cowboys, horses (duh!), old bankers, and industrial revolution relics. Considering song titles like "The Dance 2" and "Love Theme," there's no doubt that Stillman is shooting for a visceral, pseudo-cinematic experience.
What he's portraying initially just seems like the Old West, and it's hard not to be presumptuous when looking at sepia-toned artwork and hearing the album kick off with a rickety waltz - the saloon doors are practically opening themselves here. It's not long before Stillman's background as a composer and improviser becomes apparent, and regardless of what imagery this album brings to mind, he can't avoid sounding more "high-art" than early 20th century country/folk music. Rather than representing a genre by imitation, Stillman chooses to acknowledge his own background, which actually keeps Horses from sounding cliché. It's also his intellect that makes this music thematically extend beyond the Wild West to paint a broader portrait of America. Stillman dusts off ghosts of east coast aristocracy, old alcohol, and New Orleans while always remaining objective.
Stillman's angular jazz melodies glide gracefully over intricate harmonies and impressionistic arrangements. Although his music is fueled by complex chord changes, it's remarkably humble and never flashy. Horses is often so unassuming that its details go unnoticed, but this only emphasizes that it's the perfect score to a film that doesn't exist. Its relaxed modesty is something that might fly over the heads of downloaders with short attention spans, or it just might be the perfect escape for iPods in the city. Although Horses initially seems a bit straight-laced for an ambitious New York fellow like Robert Stillman, its programmatic approach is successful. Film scores were never meant to dazzle, but rather accompany. Horses is full of smart compositions and beautiful arrangements, but much of it lies in subtlety. It's an album that's pleasant enough, but rewards patience and opens up with the more time you're willing to put into it.

1. The Dance 1
2. Horses
3. Half-Luke
4. Love Theme
5. Cavalry
6. The Dance 2
7. That's Enough