Friday, June 25, 2010

READ (I Found Out) - Super Visas

READ (I Found Out)

Super Visas

SCQ Rating: 79%

No matter who you are, a newbie to independent music or an open-minded veteran, first impressions of James Hicken should elicit a fair share of scrutiny. I know my initial reaction after hearing his band Wallscenery Demos’ second effort Check This! was one of grand uncertainty, as each track that drew me in would be countered by something I instinctively held at arm’s length. Don’t let it hinder your listening though and don’t back away; you may never enjoy every song Hicken has ever written but in time his restless ambitions become familiar charms that weave through his work like elusive armour. Sticking with it also permits the great perk of catching Hicken at his focused best, which he is on Super Visas’ debut READ (I Found Out). It’s a treat you somewhat have to earn.

If the raison d’etre behind Super Visas was to draw out a balance between Hicken’s musical interests, READ (I Found Out) achieves it handily. These seven songs still contain an accommodating degree of variety, ranging from bustling indie-rock to a surprisingly effective spoken-word composition, but they’re produced in a similar, gauzy finish and sequenced to fit cozily next to one another. You can tell Hicken has roped in his immeasurable basin of ideas (as opposed to dispersing them at random) by the distant choral that grows more haunted – yet increasingly beautiful – over the prickly rhythm-guitar on ‘Anonymous Props’. That opener’s mix of warm, bleeding keys and lo-fi percussion returns on ‘Duly Noted Projections’ and the title track, the latter with Hicken’s voice rustling like a rasp of autumn leaves. When the album steers into nostalgic pools of cascading acoustics, as on ‘The Hum That Keeps Us Cool’, Hicken proves that loosening the reigns and fleshing out his songwriting ideas can result in mesmerizing, spacious tracks that give the parent album added layers of emotion.

The less-structured jams embraced near the album’s end, like ‘Get It Right’, forfeits verse/chorus predictability but not at the expense of tight focus and, after its preceding tracks, its heady grooves feel almost celebratory. Justifiably so. Super Visas lives up to the hinted genius scattered over Hicken’s other aliases and weeds out the filler for a debut that should only get more suitable as autumn comes calling.

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