Jeremy Udden's Plainville / Jeremy Udden

If the Past Seems So Bright

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Brooklyn-based saxophonist Jeremy Udden leads an ensemble that's equal parts jazz and rock on this CD. The rhythms are rock-steady, rarely swinging, and there's a lot of stinging electric guitar and reverb that recalls blues-based indie acts like the Black Keys, though guitarist Brandon Seabrook is much more of a shredder than most indie rock players -- his soloing on "Stone Free" (not a Jimi Hendrix cover) is harsh and energized (and double-tracked; at various points, he's playing with and against himself). Udden himself, despite being the leader, doesn't often seize the spotlight; his saxophone provides melodies, but other group members take plenty of solos. Two tracks, "Bethel" and "Pause at a Lake," feature vocals, but only the latter has lyrics. The wordless crooning on "Bethel" adds to the feeling of nostalgia Udden clearly intends -- in the liner notes, he indicates that the band, Plainville, is named after the Massachusetts town he grew up in, and the music was initially inspired by his upbringing there. The quieter tracks have a pastoral feeling, combining banjo and/or acoustic guitar with pump organ drones, that seems ideally designed for sitting on a sunlit porch and relaxing. But the louder tracks are thoroughly urban music of the modern New York school, partly indebted to jazz but just as much to rock and the sounds of city life. This is a multifaceted record that succeeds at almost everything it attempts.

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