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4.0 out of 5 stars R&BI, 15 May 2012
By 
Gannon (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hoyas (Audio CD)
While some of the Bon Iver touring band are currently maximising with dual drummers in the rhythmic R&B project Poliça, Sean Carey continues to work with a less-is-more aesthetic when performing under his own name, putting his own drumming skills and those of A.A. Bondy stick-man Ben Lester to much more understated effect.

Carey's 2010 debut LPAll We Grow was understated too - perhaps unsurprising for a classical percussion graduate, but then his focus was timeless folk, free of the vocal manipulation that now characterises much of the Wisconsin/Minnesota collective scene. Now embracing warm electronics, Carey has also caught the bug, running amok with vocal tracking and capturing his endeavours with little more than his home computer's internal microphone (almost inevitably Hoyas was then given its undeniable shine by the Grammy-award-winning team of Brian Joseph and Justin Vernon himself at the Bon Iver studios).

Putting his new-found electronic percussion to immediate use, "Two Angles" houses a slow, woozy drift punctuated by synthetic cracks and low-in-the-mix skitters. Sleepy guitar echoes, a bassline and strings add layers. These then combine with some looped horns to finish a complex but unassuming slow-jam that suggests Carey's time with fellow soft-palette sessionists Gayngs was well spent.

The auto-tune arrives on "Avalanche" and sticks around for the remainder of the EP. Used intelligently and wheezing out as if from an organ the tool here haunts the track's spaces, finding room to roam amongst the chilly piano and buzzing synth-line, bringing to mind some desolate Scandinavian sunrise as it segues into "Inspir". Running with a similar vibe and adding more weight to the argument that the Bon Iver track "Woods" remains the de facto reference point for indie auto-tune, Carey's tampered vocal wails on top of laidback keyboard-organs and some curious instrumentation chattering away in mid-distance like those indistinct whispers that occasionally are blown into dreams. Continuing the Bon Iver band tradition of writing songs named after places, "Marfa" then ramps up the vocal digitalisations still further - so much so it seems to veer into stepped throat singing for a while all but obliterating discernible lyrics as the vocal stream is seamlessly blended into a steady drum machine pattern and simmering laptronic beat.

The sprawling memberbase of similarly located musicians subscribing to this sound is now a scene in itself and it already has its variants. The common denominator is a reclaiming of R&B as a viable music form. Their leader is Justin Vernon (something still surprising considering the Bon Iver debut). It only makes sense therefore to call this sound R&BI from here on in. There'll undoubtedly be a long-player from Carey to come, which on current form should only further cement the nascent genre and its sub-strains in the annals of history.
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Hoyas [VINYL]
Hoyas [VINYL] by S. Carey (Vinyl - 2012)
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