New Bums - Voices In A Rented Room - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

New Bums - Voices In A Rented Room

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2014-02-17

Guitar virtuoso Ben Chasny, one half of New Bums, has been involved with some of my favourite records of recent years through his work with Comets on Fire, Six Organs of Admittance and Rangda. In 2012 Chasny released cosmic, psych-rock album Ascent under his Six Organs moniker and displayed his rock-chops alongside Richard Bishop on Rangda’s second album, Formerly Extinct.

Both these albums were explosive, experimental and riff-heavy. Voices in a Rented Room displays Chasny’s equally impressive penchant for more reflective, folk/blues inflected work. It's a primarily acoustic record that plays the Sunday morning to the previous records Saturday night.

The other half of New Bums is made up by Donovan Quinn of psych-folk/Americana types Skygreen Leopards.The laid-back nature of albums such as their gorgeous Disciples of California stands as a partial reference point for this record yet Voices in a Rented Room is a much more stripped-back affair.

Much of the album has me picturing Chasny and Quinn sat cross-legged on the floor opposite each other, free from the complications of their other projects and simply playing music for their own entertainment. This all contributes towards the records subtle, relaxed charm.

It takes a couple of listens for some of the records finer points to shine through but when they do it stands as an intimate and rewarding listen. It’s a record that carries a kind of casual honesty; the lyrics aren’t overworked and have the feel of something partly spontaneous. Just take the brilliant, ‘Your Girlfriend Might Be a Cop’, when they sing “Your girlfriend might be police/ She looks at me like a thief… Like she knows all my crimes and can bust me anytime” In lesser hands, these lyrics would no doubt fall flat yet here they sound uncontrived, direct and honest.

Musically, the album sits somewhere between an acoustic Neil Young and perhaps a less overtly country Ryan Adams. Opening track ‘Black Bough’ comes close to the contemplative melancholia of Young classic ‘Helpless’. There are far less heroic solos on display here than on Chasny’s last few records and the songs are left to stand on their own.

Even when the lyrical content is less peaceful and an electrified solo flares up in the mix, as on the self-explanatory ‘Your Bullshit’, the album retains a feeling of calm acquiescence. If the idea of an acoustic record sounds a little dull then perhaps I’ve not described the album adequately enough. Voices in a Rented Room sees two guitar stalwarts on songwriting form, knocking out beautiful and subtle music like it was the most natural thing in the world. A really great listen.

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