Track listing: Wintered Wanderlust, Clearing Ground, Crashing Down, Coyote Mask, Love & Truth, River Is Up, Speak Like Droning, Can't Find You, Almuerzo Con Carney, Northern Lights
Avram Brown, aka The Wheel, spent some serious time and energy pouring himself into his self-titled debut album. Bits and pieces were laid down in multiple studios before he planted himself firmly within the walls of B-Side Studio in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. Some of the material he pulled from his sizable backlog but he blends those tracks seamlessly with his more recent writing.
The Wheel's soundscape is gorgeous--a rich palette of piano, layers of tasteful guitar, and vocal melodies and harmonies that embody a familiar warmth. Lyrically, there exists an introspection throughout the album. Contemplative. Thought-provoking.
Co-produced by Raymond Richards (Local Natives, LCD Soundsystem) and himself, Brown brought in a stellar line-up of musicians to bring his vision to fruition, including violist/arranger Kyleen King (Brandi Carlile, The Decemberists), recording engineer Larry Crane (Elliot Smith), and the late Ralph Carney (Tom Waits, The B-52's) whose baritone saxophone and bass clarinet are his last known recordings (be sure to check out the fun Carney-heavy "Almuerzo con Carney," the record's 9th track).
Brown shares a cool nugget about the instrumentation: "Interestingly, the piano used on the recording of 'Coyote Mask' belonged to Elliot Smith. We tracked the initial sessions at Larry Crane's Jackpot! Studios in Portland. Larry produced much of Smith's early work and is the music archivist of the Elliot Smith estate."
This is definitely a record that wants to be listened to as a complete piece of work and I'm grateful to anyone who takes the time to experience it as such.
You hear a bit of an Elliot influence in the album, as well as a melange of styles woven together from Brown's early musical exposure to his parents' 60s and 70s vinyl collection. It's mature and reflective. And much like you must with a vinyl recording, Brown has arranged The Wheel as a comprehensive experience. So add songs to your playlists as you like, but take a moment to listen as intended, cover-to-cover like a favorite old novel.
Find The Wheel streaming most everywhere. You can also pick it up on vinyl and learn more about Avram Brown, his music, upcoming shows and more at thewheelmusic.com.