Robert Sotelo - Infinite Sprawling - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Robert Sotelo - Infinite Sprawling

by Bill Golembeski Rating:10 Release Date:2019-09-27
Robert Sotelo - Infinite Sprawling
Robert Sotelo - Infinite Sprawling

In our American football, when the refs are uncertain about a call, they “go under the hood” to review the play.

Well, I spent a lot of time under that hood, and after review (or at least fifteen spins), the call is an easy one: I won’t use the word masterpiece because any music of that caliber should have a lot of treadwear on its tires, so let’s just call it a not yet canonized current classic.

Robert Sotelo (aka Andrew Doig) is a pop-rock-folk artist who is a certain cult hero, simply because he makes wonderfully idiosyncratic music. Infinite Sprawling is a clever oddball dance of a record.

Although Robert’s music sounds nothing like other musicians with odd tendencies, he is yet another puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit in the big corporate picture frame. And, even “after all these years,” to quote (the great) Paul Simon, it’s nice to listen to someone who is “still crazy.” Spin the weird turntable and name check musicians like Robyn Hitchcock, Peter Hammill, Kevin Ayers, Oliver Cherer, Brian Eno (in his pre-ambient days), Jim Pembroke (of Finnish Wigwam fame), Julian Cope, Howard Devoto, and Andy Partridge--all of who have similar odd tendencies. So, this album floats on rarified air.

Just so you know, his other record, Botanical was a sidestep into synth-pop, just because, well, he’s the type of artist that does something like that. The guy can turn on a dime (or if you prefer, a 10p coin!)

But this album is great Sixties’ styled pop-psych. “Something Besides” is a slow stroll down a boardwalk in anyone’s town. This song stretches the memory of a wonderful first date. It also has the wonderful introspective yearning of Jake Bugg’s first album. But that’s just a reference point. “Mister” pops with a Beatles melodic flare. In fact, it pops with a Paul McCartney vibe that’s somewhere between “Birthday” and “Good Day Sunshine.” “The Set Up” ups the Beatle ante with a clever Lennon twist (circa Rubber Soul), exquisite harmonies, and a psychedelic inside out sort of backwards guitar finale.  

Then, nice crickets. The title track, “Infinite Sprawling,” bounces all over the moon. There are quirky percussion and keyboards galore. It’s just a thought, but this could well be the stuff Syd Barrett may have produced in a more lucid time. Then, some more nice crickets.

As my friend, Kilda Defnut always says, “Crickets make the best rock music.”

And speaking of Pink Floyd, “Run Up” begins with a languid Dave Gilmore guitar solo. Then the dreamy tune spins (with sprightly percussion) in a much more melodic orbit that anything on Atom Heart Mother.

“In the Style Of” is just that: It’s Sixties pop re-visited with the clarity of a Hubble space photograph into the not-so-distant musical universe.

Now, “Roof” is an absolutely wonderful tune that somehow keeps humming in my brain. But just so you know: The opening vocal line recalls, of all things, Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung,” and then the song morphs into a brief bit of XTC’s “Senses Working Overtime.” Of course, the tune leaves familiar ground and extends into an (almost) Caribbean pulse and a melody that, indeed, brews its own beer.

As said, this music glances at the nimble pop of the late Sixties and is simply infectious. “Piece of Cake,” with its galloping pace, perked percussion, synth sounds, and heavenly harmonized vocals is pure and very original magic. But again, there are echoes of all the greats. “Battery” is darker and choogles like Fogerty’s “Proud Mary,” but then an odd melody, bizarre acoustic guitar, and spooky voices pull this song into strange vibrations of psych stuff that Creedence never touched. This is simply wonderfully weird pop music.

The final song, Message of Beauty,” has a slowly erupting beauty of The Beatles in their Revolver days. The guitar stretches to the heavens, and the harmony vocals are sublime. The entire record is a short twenty-eight minutes, but thankfully, this tune takes its time. This slows the pulse and ends this pop record with a profound piece of punctuation. The song is the final languorous brush stroke to a beautiful record.

Now, perhaps, I’m wrong about future sainthood. But I was late to discover the pop-rock brilliance of Big Star, Crabby Appleton, The Wackers, and sadly, even The Pretty Things. So, Father forgive me, and maybe, this time, I somehow got it right because this is a pretty great record.

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