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Shmat's Reviews
For more reviews, please visit Palebear which is where all future Shmat reviews will appear (as of March 2006).

The Boxer Program
Prizefighter (CD EP)

The Shmat seems to get a lot of bands with the word "Box" in them... The Boxing Lesson, Boxborough and now this little EP from The Boxer Program. Let him tell you though: never you mind that these songs often barely rise above the whisper of empty country fields, never you mind the ever-present hiss of 4-track recording, and never you mind that you won't be the absolute life of the party playing these at your next football party bash. With little more than acoustic guitar, voices and occasional piano and banjo the band creates a dusky atmosphere that lingers surprisingly sweet, long after the songs have passed. When Matt Tipton and Lisa Martin (Drummer Jason Gardner has filled out the trio, though he doesn't play on these songs) bring their great voices together as on the first two tracks "It's Fine, Don't Worry" and "10-18-02" they remind the Shmat of the Diskettes, though The Boxer Prgoram sound less cocktail bossa nova and more folk to him.

Those two songs are more uptempo, but the momentum quickly devolves once you get to the acoustic ballad "Left to Right". This is the part of the disc the Shmat really started to dig. That lonely piano on "Measured In Miles" could be from a Hayden song, or maybe something from Edith Frost's "Calling Over Time". Or Satie, depending on your inclination. The excellent banjo on "Cowboys In The Movies" provides the strongest link to what is probably an oft-mentioned, and admittedly weak comparison, Iron & Wine. But like Beam's work, because of the strength of the songs you become completely willing to overlook the quality of the recordings. Look at Iron & Wine getting signed to Subpop on the strength of just some scratchy demo tracks (probably an exaggeration, but anyway a cool story). Could something like that happen here again? Maybe. Probably not though, since the group's already signed on to Alaska's Hatcher Pass Records.

"Beautiful Is" rounds out the EP with more of a full featured song, with organ, harmonies, and slide guitar that provides hints at what their future stuff may sound like now that they've got drums. The band already utilizes a scarcity of sound to great effect, and the Shmat might predict that with the addition of a few other instruments their sound would sort of gravitate toward a slightly more playful Norfolk and Western.

The "keywords" on the press sheet are pretty accurate for the Prizefighter EP, which was recorded mostly with only a single microphone: soft and fragile, simple yet intimate. This is a blusterless, unpretentious, but ultimately winning combination of gentle tales spun for listeners of quieter folk/pop music. Limited edition of 49 discs, by the way.

- review by SHMAT (8.24.04)        

Hatcher Pass Records
2240 Caribou Loop Road
Wasilla, AK 99654

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