Dave Sutton: Underwater Peoples

March 9, 2010

Seeing a hot new band release a sparkling record is one of the more pleasurable things about being a music fan. The same can be said about smaller/younger/underground labels. With fewer resources than their major peers, they often have to take gambles and think differently. Dave Sutton checks out one label who have gathered a collection of great young bands connected by their visionary ideals.

It’s safe to say regardless of where the recording industry goes, friends will always make music with friends, collectives will always sprout up, and in some form, certain creative shifts will be tied to certain areas or labels. I bring this up because there’s currently something special going on with Washington D.C.’s Underwater Peoples Label What they’re radiating is not as much a trademark sound as it is a progressive vision (as seen in their mission statement). It’s the result of a belief in artistic individuality, backed by great taste. My fascination with this small outfit started by following a trail of band-crums, each act leading to another, revealing the clear pattern: Underwater Peoples. Since then, the label’s stream of releases and sampler mixes has consistently delivered discovery. To name a few:

Julian Lynch: Dig around and you’re bound to find a range of descriptors in a Julian Lynch blurb, most living somewhere in the realm of: gently improvisational melodic dream-drone, isolated lo-fidelity psych-séances of oranges and yellows blurring across aged home videos, etc. What may be happening here is Lynch’s music makes us feel, and we search for ways articulate that, often reaching into our own image banks to do so. It’s a fair (and easier) approach, and I’ll choose to do it too. He just seems like such an interesting guy, working atypical instruments like the clarinet into tracks, not to mention he’s getting his PHD in ethnomusicology. He’s a downright prolific artist with a mist all his own; it makes me want to try harder. Alas, I will fall back, and just feel it.

Real Estate: Like their fellow New Jerseyan friend above, Real Estate evoke colors but they’re a little more direct and guitar-rock-y about it. Sliding riff-laps get buddy-ed up with smiling vocals, all lightly dipped in hometown reverb – making life a beach and a diner. You may have already trailed these crumbs, as their self-titled LP has deservingly been quite a hit.

Ducktails: When not taking one of those riff-laps, Real Estate guitarist Matthew Mondanile slacks off under this solo moniker. Like self-explorations often do, the project accumulates roaming charges beyond the norms of its day band. Last year’s Landscapes acts primarily as a lyric-less, muted kaleidoscope until its final track, “House of Mirrors”, where all is flipped back onto itself with the line “you look to find direction but all you see is your reflection”. Then you kind of realize there was a kid in there all along. It’s a twist that demands a retake from the top, and when you do, each drowsy loop becomes that much more nostalgic.

Pill Wonder: On Jungle/Surf, his recently uncaged debut, a young Seattle bedroom scientist named William Murder/Murdoch takes us from the shores to the rainforest, almost literally. We’re told these 18 tropical-pop minutes are the offspring of an old desktop computer, boxes of macaroni ‘n cheese, a little kid’s drum set purchased at a garage sale, beat boxing for rhythm tracks, a 3rd grader’s recorder, an electric guitar, some sort of cheap keyboard, and a wild imagination. To coincide with the release, Portraits of The Inspired, a promotional trailer/documentary set of sorts, has lived this adventurous theme – it’s worth watching

I could go on…

Check out Dave’s awesome music blog StadiumandShrines

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