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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).

Brian Michael Roff
In The Analog Woods (CD EP)

Brian Michael Roff, you had me already from the words "Tascam Porta-One using one SM57 microphone". My interest, that is. I'm always interested in these purported lo-fi claims (though because of it's Keep Recordings pedigree, I already assumed the quality was going to be on the high end). Many people lay claim to the joys of uni-microphonal recording bliss, but few pull it off so it doesn't sound exactly like that: a home recording using a cheap dynamic mic.

Well, no such problems here. Roff's EP, entitled "In The Analog Woods", mixes nice traditional folk instrumentation on banjo and accordian with poignant acoustic guitar driven tales like "The New Me" and "Rocks and Minerals". It definitely helps the cause of Roff's simple setup that the songs are uncluttered by extraneous instruments, lyrically astute, and lower in volume. I hear a lot of full four piece emopunk bands that try to do a recording with a single dynamic mic setup in the middle of the room. Baby, it just don't work that way too often. Here, Roff simply takes what he does best, which is mostly mellow country-folk, and presents it in a manner that goes down surprisingly smooth. The songs are neither overly bleak, nor excessively upbeat. More thoughtful than anything. In vocal style, he reminds me of Smog's Bill Callahan the most, maybe some Canadian Hayden on the outside, and a bit of Vic Chestnutt's nasal ponderings thrown in there for good measure.

The real test of an album like this is whether after about halfway through the CD, you're still thinking of it as a lo-fi, one mic production. Some initial fidelity problems are inevitable with this type of recording (though there didn't seem to be any on this disc) but if you can start to lose yourself in the actual songs after awhile, then you know that it must be pretty good. Which is what happened by about the time the second track, "Emergency" rolled around. I completely forgot about the nature of the recordings, leaned back in my office chair, and enjoyed the EP on repeat for awhile. And in the end, that's probably all that matters. The songs.

- review by SHORTY (10.6.04)        

Keep Recordings
PO Box 18972
Tucson, AZ 85731

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