Abram Shook - Love At Low Speed

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:9 Release Date:2017-06-16

Encountering an artist you haven’t heard much about beforehand certainly requires a bit information gathering. Nothing unusual in the process, the question is what you’re going to encounter when you do so, beyond the basics. When somebody mentioned that Abram Shook’s third album (part of the information gathering) Love At Low Speed reminds of War On Drugs and one of its West Coast-like offshoots Nightlands, I had to investigate.

What I got was a great find, in every respect. Shook started out in his native California, moved to Portland and then to Boston, ending up in Austin, Texas, where this album was produced under the auspices of Noah Gregson (Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart and others). All the places, all those movements are detectable in the music and more. The essence of the California Seventies sound is there, of course (Lies), but then it is immediately obvious that Shook was an ardent student of Jazz (Divinity, No Return), but also of Brazilian and other Worldly sounds. Bossa Nova obviously left a lasting impression, as he himself cites a Milton Nascimento/Lo Borges album as one of the key inspirations. But he obviously went deep into that sound, as the opener The Hours has an intricate strings arrangement reminiscent of the early Seventies Brazilian masterpiece by Arthur Verocai, while the next track, Eventually is an exemplary modern Bossa itself.

Oh, another touchstone Shook mentions himself - David Bowie. You’d be hard pressed to find an obvious clue, but Shook integrated Bowie’s musical concept into his own so well that it became some form of a musical metalanguage. A lofty achievement in itself. Two other quite impressive elements of this album - it has quite a natural flow, you have a constant feeling as if the songs are an integral part of a whole, very much helped by the fact that the arrangements do exactly what they are supposed to, complement the songs and lyrics. And that is where Shook also excels. His lyrics concentrated on more personal aspects, particularly love. Quite a few artists opting for such a concept usually fall into the trap of writing something quite maudlin or concentrating on the personal aspects that can be named as “my pain”. But Shook skillfully escapes such a trap and presents something a wider audience can identify with.

So quite a positive surprise and one of the better summer listens this year. You can even keep it around for those wintry days.

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