On Saturday, May 20, multi-instrumentalist and lauded bass player Erik Kramer released his debut studio endeavor, an EP entitled ‘Missed the Boat.’ The Brooklyn-based musician has an especially eclectic sound, one that employs the talent of a slew of musicians: saxophone, trombone, viola, trumpet, back-up vocalists - they’re all there. An experimental record through and through, ‘Missed the Boat’ is an indie record quite unlike anything else that’s come across my desk in recent months.
The most unique quality ‘Missed the Boat’ boasts is its ability to effortlessly hop between genres, all while maintaining an aura of cohesiveness. It’s very difficult to be an artist that pulls influence from so many sonic avenues and keep your sound organized, and Kramer does this remarkably well. The titular track, which opens the EP, has a very Radiohead-infused sound. The soft vocal croons, funky bass riffs, and erratic brass sections all sound like they’re from a ‘King of Limbs’ session.
The following track has much more of a jazz influence, offering a rather beautiful soundscape of piano noodling accented by a fantastic string section. If New York experimental music was written for a late night jazz club, ‘Seagulls’ would be the song that would result from it. ‘One of Many,’ the track after that, is a tune that really lets the brass section shine. There’s more funk and fusion influence apparent on that song, and the more upbeat nature of the track gives Kramer more room to experiment as a vocalist.
The EP’s most easy-listening track is surely ‘Tell You Otherwise,’ a sublime listening experience that washes over the listener in a surreal fashion. The equally enigmatic lyricism matches the instrumentation beautifully, as does the sparse, but effective female vocal backing. Heavy jazz inspiration then returns for ‘The Way It Goes,’ exhibiting some of the collection’s most excellent musicianship.
The finale of the EP, ‘The Light,’ may be its strongest song, at least, lyrically. The story-like lyricism puts the vocal content at the forefront of the song, whereas the rest of the EP usually reverses that dichotomy. At this point, it’s also very much worth mentioning that the production on ‘Missed the Boat’ is incredibly good, too, and Kramer has a superb hand over such a large soundscape of musicians.
‘Missed the Boat’ is an excellent EP from beginning to end, defying genre by jamming together funk, jazz, and experimental influences. It does it in an unpretentious fashion, too, which is rather vital to success in this arena.
Crafting a concept album is an incredibly difficult task. Tying together a cohesive narrative across a record’s worth of songs isn’t just daunting, it’s an endeavour that even some of the industry’s finest have failed to do memorably. This task, however, becomes notably more difficult when you’re dealing in the abstract via instrumental soundscapes. That is what Chronotope Project, the moniker of composer Jeffrey Ericson Allen, attempts to do with his latest project, ‘Ovum.’
NAAL is an eclectic music project led by Chicago composer Dave Mantel. This talented musician has a true passion for great melodies and haunting musical textures. His blend of ambient, shoegaze and experimental drone music feels personal and unique, echoing the work of artists such as Slowdive, Boards of Canada or Sigur Ros, just to mention a few.