Roberts & Lord – Eponymous

It’s not often that a message on a social network from one independent musician to another turns into a fully realized project, but that’s exactly what happen when Simon Lord (formerly of Simian) reached out to Rafter Roberts (of Rafter and Bunky). Their overseas collaboration happened by the two mailing tracks back and forth to one another, combining two radically different styles. Roberts complex arrangements, low-fi recording sensibility (The backing music was recorded on a 4-track tape machine at Roberts’ San Diego studio) is firmly juxtaposed with Lord’s clean, digitally-recorded vocals, which gives the record of since of urgency that one experiences when wild experiments yield something unusually beautiful. This is the background to the release, “Eponymous” by Roberts & Lord, released on Asthmatic Kitty Records.

The record starts off with “mosquito,” a track with heavy, crunchy, lo-fi beats. Until the vocals kick in, the song sounds like it be a hip-hop track. When the vocals do kick-in it evolves into a shimmering pop track. The next song, “wild berries” starts off with big, bombastic, fuzzed out drums with melodic vocal, which will be a signature sound for the record.

While crunchy, low-fi rhythms juxtaposed against melodic vocals is a common element of the record, the duo traverses into much more nuanced terrain. “Bottom of the bottle” combines melancholy, harmonized vocals and oddly syncopated rhythms while remaining sunny and at points even uplifting, while “windmill” is a garage rock-sounding workout. “Oblique” is a catchy almost sugary pop song, with crunchy beats and beautiful harmony that is interrupted by stabby synths. “Knots” and “menuhin” have an almost Beach Boys quality, mixing a kind of do-wop with 808 toms. “Purple doves” is a Latin-tinged song, that could be mistaken for Animal Collective.

Further into the record, we find a deeper sound. “We rise, we fall” sounds Eno-like but with far more funky elements. “Interior demon” lays down an 808 kick-drum, with a blues riff and Lord’s smooth falsetto vocal. Going even deeper into and ambient direction, “sperm” is an instrumental, crunchy electro beat with ethereal vocals overlaid, that is slowed down (almost screwed and choped), having a coral quality that makes it feel almost like sacred music. Wrapping up the record is “the same love.” This song has an almost instantly recognizable feel. Imagine the “I’d like to teach the world to sing…” Coke commercial from the 70’s, with swirling psychedelic vocals and crunchy beats. At it’s core, it a song that the Beatles could have written.

This debut effort by Roberts & Lord is a unique exploration of sounds that you normally don’t hear on the same record, much less the same track. The end result of this experimentation is a unlikely concoction that is one of my favorite undergound pop records of the year.