Science of Living Things

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Following his membership in Haelah and a number of noise-driven four-track collaborations, singer/songwriter Albert Menduno moved to Portland, OR, where he spent time writing the material for his first solo project A-Set. The results were released as Science of Living Things, this mini-LP debut from 1999. Playing the lion's share of the instruments, Menduno is joined by Joan of Arc's Tim Kinsella. Califone/Red Red Meat member Tim Hurley produced the recordings, which took place in Chicago. While Science of Living Things lacks the cohesiveness a fuller length may allow, it nevertheless holds the promise of a talented young songwriter. Delivering his brand of intimate, mid-tempo indie rock, Menduno seems on the verge of something more timeless on songs like "Once Upon a Time" (with its delicate organ and shimmering cymbals) and the closing "W. Division." Beginning as a hushed, fragile solo performance, the latter flowers into a touching ballad that might have been recorded in 1970. Throughout the album, a pump organ weaves through the warm, chugging guitars, playing hidden melodies around Menduno's rich vocal snarl. Unfortunately, the more ambitious "This Flag I've Raised" fails to strike a chord. Recalling early David Bowie, the song meanders, dreamlike, down a series of musical paths driven by acoustic guitars and ominous marching drums. Science of Living Things is a fine first effort, but listeners may want to begin with its full-length follow-up, Songs From the Red Room released later the same year.

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