Angelo De Augustine - Tomb - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Angelo De Augustine - Tomb

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2019-01-11
Angelo De Augustine - Tomb
Angelo De Augustine - Tomb

If there is any consolation for emotional turmoil, it is a catalyst to create great art.  California singer/songwriter Angelo De Augustine has been on the receiving end sufficiently enough to put together an album’s worth of reflection on loss.  Where prior albums had several songs apiece that stood out as melodic lo-fi gems, on Tomb De Augustine has a topic to focus intensely on to the album’s overall benefit.

Coming from a household where De Augustine’s father abandoned the family early on, it’s a scar that is not easily healed.  Apparently, the divorce was not of the Talladega Nights “Yay, two Christmases” variety where everyone stays friends and maintains the family text string going.  What De Augustine was subjected to as a child, appears to be more of the 1970s style divorce of Alfonso Cuarón’s recent Roma, where dad suddenly disappears never to be seen again unless it’s a glance of him crossing the street downtown with a new girlfriend.  De Augustine explores that feeling to great effect on album highlight ‘Bird Has Flown’.

Tomb is further inspired by a recent letter spurning his affections, that set De Augustine into a creative flurry.  I had no idea that handwritten break-up letters were a thing any longer.  Apparently, De Augustine was dating a descendent of the Brontë sisters.  Nonetheless, De Augustine’s series of losses over the years and hope for reconciliation make for a stark, yet infinitely listenable forty-five minutes.  After several home recordings, another loss that is welcome here is persistent tape hiss.  Charming perhaps early on in one’s career, the leap forward to the crypt-like silence of the current recording is a great one.  With light production and accompaniment by Thomas Bartlett, it’s only in the more cluttered performances where Tomb stumbles slightly.

Opening with the album’s title track and accompanying himself on a crisply tuned bandurria, De Augustine delivers one of the album’s best songs early on.  His singing in a breathy high register throughout the album serves the most delicate arrangements well, and when he hits the high notes here they pierce the heart.  De Augustine imagines past relationships with a chance at a mulligan - “played it back and forth, prefer to rewind”.  With references to the Egyptian god of the underworld, Osiris, who not only judges the dead but grants rebirth, De Augustine is ever hopeful for second chances.

There are very few missteps on Tomb, but unlike most albums here they come fairly early.  ‘All To The Wind’, on an album that benefits from stark simplicity, has a psychedelic swirl to it but does little with it.  Two tracks later, ‘I Could Be Wrong’ fails to pick up a melody with its drum machine clunk paired with a repetitive piano chord that just never goes anywhere.  Given those tracks sandwich a great one in ‘You Needed Love, I Needed You’, where De Augustine’s need for the specific is brilliantly interlaid with her need for the general, you wonder if the album will alternate the good with the bad.  

Fortunately, the balance of the record is an intimate study of love lost.  It continues to interweave the loss of an idyllic childhood with relationship misses.  ‘Kaitlin’ stakes the basis of a relationship on sharing a background of a broken home.  Shared misery usually isn’t the best recipe for a solid outcome, but the song succeeds.  The ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ bass shuffle of ‘Time’ and De Augustine’s whistle makes it one of the most rhythmic tracks here and ideal for a single.  While the simplicity of ‘Somewhere Far Away From Home’ evokes the pathos and slow rolling out of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, as De Augustine warns “when you’re gone…I can’t protect you.”  The faster clip of ‘Wanderer’ with De Augustine again on bandurria sounds like an outtake from Fleet Foxes’ last album, as it cuts through choppy waters.

The palpable pain of his father’s departure on ‘Bird Has Flown’ along with the sparest of instrumentation makes it the highlight of the gentler tracks that close out the album.  When the instrumentation drops out and De Augustine pushes his voice higher in the chorus it’s a moment of beauty borne out of loss.  The closer ‘All Your Life’ speaks to moments of desperation in life, and that they are inexorably part of us, with the blades of a ceiling fan twirling in reverse recalling the album’s opening moments of living life in rewind.  Hopefully, De Augustine’s public sharing of life’s pain brings him catharsis, and it will undoubtedly resonate and provide an understanding arm around the shoulder of many.  Even if De Augustine’s relationships to date haven’t fully blossomed, musically speaking the cleaning out that takes place on Tomb provides the fresh beginning he needed.  It is truly a treasure unearthed.


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