Carlos Hernandez - On Folly - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Carlos Hernandez - On Folly

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2018-07-27
Carlos Hernandez - On Folly
Carlos Hernandez - On Folly

It would be easy to dismiss Carlos Hernandez’s On Folly as a slight Summery jasmine scented jazz breeze.  That would be a mistake.  One could also be forgiven for thinking Hernandez a bit off for titling the opening track to his album ‘Interlude’.  Isn’t that supposed to happen in the middle?  It turns out that Hernandez’s stripped-down turn from his band Ava Luna is anything but lacking in substance.  And the ‘Interlude’ in question is indeed meant as a break, but not in the musical sense.  Composed during the chaos of the last U.S. election year the album can be viewed as a salve to the toxic time, but also covers Hernandez’s brief Summer hiatus away from New York City.  Encouraged by discovering kindred spirits in the Deep South, and even though his sojourn away from Brooklyn didn’t ultimately stick, there is revelry here for new experiences and unexpected surprises.  

After spending numerous hours with the album, it only fully blossomed after an intentional listen on headphones.  While the album certainly isn't cluttered, you can soak it all in without distraction and pick out nuances not otherwise evident.  The gentle, spacey flow of the snippet of ‘Interlude’ is a far and welcome step away from the frenetic funk of Hernandez’s primary band.  Handling most instrumentation himself the missed drum beat of ‘Summer Salt’ and the song’s woozy bass and piano cadence paint the pull of a journey South.  Hernandez’s seamless falsetto and background singers Stefanie Santana and Yatta Zoker’s fuzzy accompaniment along with a recurrent amp buzz bring the Summer heat to life.  While Hernandez’s forced airy vocals and piercing guitar on the title track recall a jazzier Grizzly Bear, as he discovers the surroundings of the South Carolina beach.  

An early peak is reached with ‘Crush’ where try as he might, Hernandez can’t contain himself as he goes from sensual whisper to an unabashed Princely falsetto as he rips into a “so and so has a boyfriend/girlfriend” riff.  The soothing ‘Second Man’ benefits from deeply layered harmonies sung in rounds showing Hernandez’s compositional prowess.  And if ‘Ocean Pkwy’ is more of a straightforward jazzy throwback, the denser ‘Beacon’ which accomplishes much over a brief span is another highlight and benefits from Sandy Gordon’s expert drumming.  The beautifully lyrical ‘Lucky Star’ hums along and makes for a perfect closer.  When Hernandez sings “I run to meet my lover at the station” and croons the bus’ name of the title it turns what must be a gritty locale into a golden hour romantic postcard.  The album fades out like the Summer it recalls with a warm buzz.

This album may not have the distribution or an easily slotted genre to garner much attention, and that’s a shame.  Hernandez’s talent as a composer and vocalist is clearly evident and the song cycle approach makes for a nostalgic time capsule. As the dog days of August fast approach, it never hurts to have a soundtrack to a Summer lost to sand, salt, waves, and chance encounters.  On Folly captures those fleeting times well and would be best listened to on a darkened porch, the whiff of brine in the air, surrounded by the chatter of insects and friends that you can’t see but know are there.     

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