The Desert of Shallow Effects

Miles Kurosky

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The Desert of Shallow Effects Review

by James Allen

Miles Kurosky was the frontman for San Francisco indie poppers Beulah from their inception in the late '90s until their split in 2004, and even though Kurosky began recording his first solo album, The Desert of Shallow Effects, in 2006, the process would be a long, laborious one, resulting in a six-year gap between his former band's breakup and his re-emergence as a recording artist. He was far from idle during that period, though, which becomes apparent before even hearing the first note of Shallow Effects; simply glancing at the dizzying list of players and instruments employed here will tell you that this was a massive undertaking. Even Kurosky's liner notes call the album's gestation process "lengthy and confusing," tellingly describing a session whose purpose was to "add the kitchen sink." Still, for all that, Shallow Effects is almost shockingly coherent. Instead of a big, sprawling mess, the arrangements -- which incorporate everything from glockenspiel to Mellotron -- offer complex but controlled layers of sound that never seem too thick or unwieldy. Stylistically, the lo-fi, high-concept psych-pop spirit of the Elephant 6 collective that ushered in Beulah's early work can still be discerned if you listen hard enough, but Kurosky has grown up, too; psychedelic excess and stoner whimsy for whimsy's sake have largely been left behind by an obvious desire to put songs before sonic trappings and impart specific ideas in songs with linear, detail-oriented lyrics. That said, the wide array of tonal colors on offer here is in itself an appealing sort of orchestral pop taster's menu, with horns, strings, tuned percussion, and more tickling your ear at any given point. And to his credit, Kurosky has avoided the overt Brian Wilson-isms that might subsume a project like this in the hands of someone with a less singular vision. For however much of an influence the classic ‘60s L.A. pop sound may be on Kurosky, The Desert of Shallow Effects never sounds anything less than completely contemporary.

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