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A Sequel to Saint Bartlett,
This review is from: Maraqopa (Audio CD)
Although he is now 10 albums and 15 years into his career, Damien Jurado is still a relatively unknown artist. The same can be said for producer Richard Swift who, including "Maraqopa," has now produced Jurado's last two records.
For many artists, this could become disconcerting, but not for Jurado. With each album since his 1997 debut, "Waters Ave S.," Damien Jurado has progressed as a musician and evolved as a songwriter.
"Maraqopa" is, in a way, a sequel to 2010's "Saint Bartlett," Jurado's first record with Richard Swift. As the album strolls through each of the 10 tracks, a vast variety of styles, textures, instruments, and moods are explored. "Nothing is the News" opens the album with a track that might feel more familiar on a Pink Floyd record. Jurado's reverb-saturated vocals play second fiddle to competing solos played simultaneously along with ambient sound effects.
Swift's utilization of panning the guitars to the left or right speaker allows both parts plenty of time to shine and gives the listener something new to explore with repeated listens. This is not the same acoustic folk artist fans of Jurado have become accustomed to and as "Maraqopa" unfolds, Jurado sets out to break every preconceived notion listeners have had about his music.
One of the more unique tracks on the record is "Life Away From the Garden." Accompanied by an acoustic guitar, the song would comfortably fit within the majority of Jurado's catalog, but instead his voice enters into a call and response with a children's choir while stabs of a rock organ create syncopation with the drum track. The resulting balance of instruments and voices gives the whole track a dreamy quality reminiscent of "Cloudy Shoes," one of the leading singles from "Saint Bartlett."
Damien Jurado has certainly come a long way from his days in the Seattle punk band Coolidge. Although much of his earliest solo material was straightforward acoustic folk with hints of both country and Americana, his partnership with Richard Swift has turned his music into an elaborately layered affair. From the shimmering xylophone and synthesized whistles of "Reel to Reel" to the calm organ sections of "Everyone a Star" and "So On, Nevada," Jurado's instrumentation has progressed to the next level while still leaving plenty of space within the mix for his thoughtful wordplay.
It's amazing that an artist as talented as Damien Jurado with a catalog of material as diverse as his has yet to start selling out larger clubs or theaters, but his time will come.
Fans of "Saint Bartlett" will have no trouble falling in love with this record, but for those listeners unfamiliar with Damien Jurado's music, pick up a copy of 2008's "Caught in the Trees" before this album to get an idea of how far he has come in such a short time.
Track Suggestion: "Reel to Reel"