Philadelphia musicians Kurt Vile and Robert Robinson began collaborating long before they would rise to greater acclaim both individually and together, Robinson with his tape-hiss symphonies as Sore Eros and Vile as a dreamer of vivid, guitar-based indie rock daydreams with his much-lauded solo work. Robinson would accompany Vile as one of the Violators on tours, but in the early 2000s the two worked frequently on lo-fi home recordings that could at times boil down the best elements of their moody, often spaced-out musical personalities. Jamaica Plain is a short-running EP that collects some bright moments from these early collaborations, initially offered up years after their creation. Even though it's just three, mostly instrumental tunes, the material here is surprisingly in keeping with the best of each of its creators' respective work. "Jamaica Plain" opens up with remarkably lo-fi fidelity, and gently fingerpicked acoustic guitars flow into understated synths and dubbed-out interplay between live drums and the click of an ancient drum machine. The songs linger with the same patient twilight ambience as the best of the more acoustic side of the late-'90s post-rock scene, with slower tempos and gradually unfolding melodic shifts. "Serum" leaks out its lyrics in a single word per bar of its rhythm, rendering them a complete afterthought to the glowing one-chord meditation that the song becomes. The synth-heavy album closer "Calling Out of Work" sounds recorded directly to boom box, equally gentle, stoned, and drifty as the rest of the EP. Though it's by no means as fulfilling or well-thought-out as any of either player's full-length offerings, Jamaica Plain is a lovely, unexpectedly soft slice of the things that make both Vile and Sore Eros stand out, and its brief running time merits phases of repeat listening. The web of sounds here creates the same relaxing and breathable environments as Eno's most meditative work, just a far more lo-fi rendering of it.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas