Roger Sellers

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Primitives Review

by Marcy Donelson

Though it first appeared on Punctum Records as the fourth LP by experimental musician Roger Sellers, Primitives would become the debut of Bayonne, an alias for his more electronics-based songcraft, when it received a wider release from Mom + Pop Music in 2016. Rooted in techniques used in his solo live shows, which involve layering parts via live looping, the recording incorporates voice, synths, piano (or piano voice), loops, effects, and acoustic percussion to construct his textured ambient songs. The bubbly "Spectrolite" opens with briskly arpeggiated marimba-like tones alongside a rhythmic guitar pattern before a bassline and drum kit kick in, followed by vocals. Its rattling snare rhythm is at least as conspicuous as Sellers' soft, echoing falsetto, the latter there for harmonic and timbral purposes more than a lyrical message. Those elements, along with the repeated arpeggiated segments and gradual addition of electronic detailing, are what define the sound of the whole album -- it's both ambient and percussive. On the ambient side, tracks often play into one another with quiet transitions, making single-track play potentially abrupt. The sound of running water over what appears to be recorded outdoor noise ends "Waves" and begins "Steps," whose glimmering synths seem to grow out of a fountain. The slower, impressionistic "Lates" features a melodic piano phrase repeated over blended, spacy synth chords and sustain. Cymbals, tambourine, and bell tones flesh out the tranquil soundscape before both sonorous and clattering drums enter in unison, again in a repeated rhythm, with multiple attacks evoking a drum circle. In press materials, Sellers cited drummer Phil Collins as an early childhood influence, as well as an influence on the brawny percussion on the album. Drums play an important enough role on Primitives that it seems appropriate when the final track, "Omar," ends with shimmering electronics fading away to expose lone drums. It literally ends with a bang.

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