Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Album Review: Sumner James - 29 Days

To record his first solo album, James Phillips, percussionist and producer for local favorite Bombadil, spent February 2012 camped out in a barn in Portland, Oregon. For 29 days he experimented with electronic music under the pressure of a February 29 deadline.

The result is 29 Days, a collection of 10 varied songs veneered with electronics recorded under the name Sumner James. On the surface these tunes sound much different than the whimsical folk of Bombadil, but deep down they share much of the band’s quirkiness and charm.

29 Days starts with Phillips piecing together a sonic kaleidoscope on “Every Child Is An Artist.” It morphs and twists around the sounds of children speaking and laughing. He continues to show his deft hand on “One Week Since You’ve Been Gone.” The delicate chimes, whispered vocals, and infectious circular rhythms make for a meditative experience.

Then Phillips starts branching out. “Home” opens up and soars in celebration as he sings, “Take your time. Make your home.” Then he drops a heavy beat on “Don’t Break My Heart.” The incredibly deep vocals feel cheesy and the guitar solo is particularly gooey, but it’s a lot of fun.

The variety is endless. “Long Life” draws on Phillip’s folk roots. “Why I Love It Here” is a wandering fusion jam recalling 70’s-era Miles Davis.

At times, such variation makes 29 Days feel like an overview or an exercise in what’s possible rather than something cohesive; however, if this is what Sumner James can do in 29 Days, just imagine what he could given the time to really dig in.

29 Days will be self-released August 28. The official release party will be at the Bombadil show at the Cat's Cradle on September 1.

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