Doveman The Acrobat

[Swim Slowly; 2005]

Styles: slo-core; melancholy-tinged folk
Others: Ida, Mojave 3, Tiger Saw

In the 1960s, the Quiet Revolution overcame Quebec, bringing about social and economic reforms that strengthened the French Canadians' role in the Canadian government, and the shaping of their own destiny. For years, the French Canadians had been taken for granted by the rest of Canadian government -- their resources pillaged by American and English Canadian investors, and the French Canadian workers they employed were given so little freedom they were looked on as something close to second class citizens.

The current musical climate in America's own wilderness-inclined locale, New York City, seems to be enjoying a similar Quiet Revolution of late. Bands that were once limited because their sound wasn't loud enough for bars -- and not brash enough for New Yorkers in general -- are now enjoying a chance to be given a fair stake in their own music scene. As with the success of a population, though, the New York bands will solidify themselves based on their own zeal and talent.

If you were to ask me today if I thought that New York's Quiet Revolution could be written into the music history books, I would give a definite yes, because today I am listening to the new record by Doveman. On the surface, they're a banjo-and-piano led outfit by a guy, Thomas Bartlett, who sings very softly. You literally can't listen to this album on headphones, because Bartlett's voice is so close to you ear that it sends a constant chill, making for a very anxious listening experience.

Further, though, this is a band who knows their way around music. The Acrobat's songs are quite repetitive, but they keep morphing in ways that bring them to unusual conclusions. For instance, the album's centerpiece "boy + angel," starts off with a fairly typical melody. By the end, though, you've already gone in and out of spare cornet soloing, and a dissonant mellotron jam that reveals Bartlett as quite the prodigy. Many of the songs swirl like this, bouncing the elements off of each other, only to bring them to a new, unforeseen place by the song's end. Sure they're minimalist, but Doveman are a welcome reminder that limited playing doesn't necessarily mean "simple." Every track is the beginning of a new path, and it makes all of them worth listening to. Some, like the banjo-led "House," and "Clouds" move toward an Americana folk, while "Chasing Clouds" and "Cities" are brooding numbers focused on letting off some steam. The fact that Doveman has these styles at their disposal is a credit to their ability, but their sensible usage of the tools is what makes this album worth listening to.

If New York's Quiet Revolution is going to survive, they will need more bands like Doveman willing to take the experiments and spare structures that have been used before beyond their mapped out conclusion. The good news is that, if they fail to follow such leads, they can always secede from the music world once again. I doubt they'll have much trouble finding an audience.
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