Pop-muzika iščupana kroz nos i bačena u lo-fi ulje.
In the 27 years since arriving here from the fifth dimension, cosmic pop-singer Rollin Hunt has learned a great deal about human emotion. Incredibly, he's almost become one of us: walking the streets of our cities, admiring our women, dancing in our nightclubs--and finally understanding us, crying big, salty tears over our species' violent destiny. And now he's dropping one of the first Major Albums of the 2010s, bringing the message of celestial love that's already earned him a cult-following in England and Canada.
Fans of Rollin's far-out R&B ("Unearthly shoo-be-doo," Jessica Hopper has called it) know him as a lo-fi underdog, an oddly-charming savant who recorded some of his best material on an answering machine. But The Phoney, his first real LP, finds Rollin working it in panoramic, technicolor hi-fi that's light years from the bedroom studio. The not-so-secret weapon is whiz-kid producer and multi-instrumentalist Doni Schroader, who worked for months with Rollin in manic, all-night studio binges, bringing his songs to lush and lavish life. The gorgeous production that emerged from that west-side Chicago warehouse--jaw-dropping orchestral arrangements and pyrotechnic studio wizardry, an awesome synthesis of organic and electric that's both warm and futuristic--is as inventive as anything this side of Frank Ocean, with whom The Phoney shares a kind of Tumblr-era sense of digital melancholy.
Most shocking of all, The Phoney has what might be called crossover potential--that is, it speaks not only to the human experience but to intelligent life across the space-time continuum. Unlike, say, Ziggy Stardust, Rollin is the type of otherworldly messenger that you can imagine having a drink with; as a messiah, he's remarkably accessible--one of us!--and for a 'phoney' he seems awfully real. Still, this is a big and important album that threatens to launch Rollin right back through the galactic portals --let's hope it doesn't, he's urgently needed here on earth.
27-year-old Chicago musician Rollin Hunt has been meticulously sculpting a debut LP since his first flurry of demos way back in 2007. It's been a process of fine-tuning and whittling – by his own account he has a stack of recordings waiting to be digitised (though 400 already have been) – where every detail has been scrutinised. He's been properly making noises since the death of his father spurred him on, and over the years he's perfected his craft, learning how to use all manner of instruments to some degree and dissecting pop so that he can put it back together in an original way.
This first full-length record, The Phoney flits through genres, bordering soul, rock, indie, doo-wop and plain ol' pop. 'Criminal' takes 50s rock'n'roll and injects it with lo-fi vocals and chunks of hefty synth-brass. Flighty backing voices and stabs of hacking coughs litter the cut, and there are hints of Bowie in his voice as he slurs lyrics: "The police at the station look at the picture on the wall/ they cannot find him – the criminal." It's a warped effort, with swirling psych keys and a sudden ending. 'Husband' has Hunt plucking away at his first instrument, the bass guitar. He croons lowly/Cash-ly, duetting with an ethereal female vocalist before a barrage of Eastern string shrieks and filthy blues-rock guitars waltz in. It's a menacing track, laced with sneers and danger.
He's definitely taken his time on the record. It's a labour of love, and Hunt is clearly a perfectionist – there's not a note out of place, the mix is precise and he knows exactly when to show restraint or when to pound the throttle. The downside to delving this deep is that he perhaps hasn't taken enough time to look at the bigger picture: the album is disjointed. The peril of attempting so much is that is becomes less cohesive, more akin to a smorgasbord of samples than a strident statement. Each track when isolated is essentially a lesson on how to do that genre, but when you zoom out and listen to the whole thing, there's an awkward flow.
'In The Window' is fantasy folk crossed with chamber-pop: luscious strings worm their way through woodwind melodies as machine gun snares ratatat a march. There's a similarity to Patrick Wolf. Vampiric organs hail the arrival of 'Shooter', a flickering synthpop assault with wartorn samples. While bass and kick line the verses, flourishes of synth mastery interrupt the pure rhythm, geeing up the audio for apocalyptic chorus. 'Trail Of Tears' is a ballad with 'Summer Nights' chords and slide guitar – it's aged doo-wop accompanied by warbled, jangling six-strings and Hunt's marvellous drawl. The chorus boasts twinkling scalic riffs, and it's a welcome break in tone from the slower, more rhythmic verses. It is a bit of a downer to end the record on, though there is an unnamed, violin-led bonus track that recalls Villagers which raises the mood somewhat.
There are some charming songs on offer from Rollin Hunt during the course of The Phoney, and his deviations into 50s pop are excellent inclusions. He tackles a vast array of genres on the record, but unfortunately, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts, and it feels a bit lost between identities. That said, there are sure to be some brilliant singles that will come off the album, because when the tracks are separated into smaller segments, they are sensational. -Larry Day
Rollin Hunt has a pretty impressive CV. Originally from Chicago, the Los Angeles-based production designer has worked on projects like this ad for the NBA and the independent filmWolves From Another Kingdom. Not to be outdone by his visual side, Hunt's bombed-out lo-fi recordings have also inspired early Ariel Pink-like devotion, leading to a tribute album by equally obscure bands in 2008. Four years later, the multimedia artist seems to be moving away from the doo-wop swing of his earlier releases with the dark, hazy "Beautiful Park" off his forthcoming debut full-length, The Phoney. Hunt drags his husk of a low register over a bed of fizzling synthesizers a la Matthew Dear, electrocuted and left for dead, crawling through the wreckage of his equipment. Hunt builds the track's melodic tension to hair-raising effect, releasing it at the last minute with his erstwhile optimism in arpeggiated sprinkles. - Harley Brown
Rollin Hunt: "Beautiful Park" (via SoundCloud)