Band Name: W. W. Lowman
Album Name: Plain Songs EP
Best Element: The interplay of instrumentation and vocals.
Please be advised: these songs are intoxicatingly mellow. Three parts indie, two parts ambient, one part lounge jazz, a splash of horns and bass tones reminiscent of Cake, and garnished with ephemeral vocals that serve more as instruments than as words, W.W. Lowman’s Plain Songs E.P. is a sonically seductive cocktail. While much of music today is pre-packaged to be consumed and pissed out within three weeks, Plain Songs begs you to drink slowly; I’m still sipping in this wonderful little album.
Don’t allow the title to deceive you: Plain Songs is anything but plain. The album’s first track, “Tea till Ten,” begins with a droning that develops into a soft yet driving guitar lead. It both welcomed me in and had me wondering what to expect: pop-punk; an experimental melody; crashing, tube-driven guitars. Wrong… I was completely off. Lowman next introduces flutes that rise and fall over the lead line before cutting to smooth rhythm guitars. Lowman’s voice enters next—his soft tones mimicking the rhythm guitar—before a joyful round of voices unravels in ba-da-da-daaa’s and ba-bop’s: simultaneously drawing me in and sending me out from the song. It has that feel of a child’s sing-along without being juvenile.
Complexity dominates the six-song E.P., and with just cause: Lowman spent three years developing its textured flow. Lowman’s interest in classical composition winds its way through a pop-music filter to produce a crafted yet catchy album. The fourth track on Plain Songs, “Batie,”—which Lowman has made available for free download on http://www.myspace.com/wwlowman—is the early lead for my favorite; although this album doesn’t lend itself to favorites, with each track being part of a greater whole. Unexpected drum fills tango with an introductory lead line that hums just out of their flittering reach. Midway through, a more prominent line—singed by tube-overdrive—stabs into the mix, vying for primacy, decaying into feedback, clipping and calling out until the two collide and fuse, pealing away into the distance like a lone car driving off after last call.
As I listened to Plain Songs—driving to work at 5:30 A.M., drunk on the movement within each song, captivated by the flow from one track to the next—I wondered how to categorize Lowman’s music. Was music created to be cordoned off into shelf-ready categories, or should it simply be… simply envelop you where you stand, drink, walk, cook a meal, jog, read, socialize, rest, or drive? Plain Songs accomplishes the latter without disintegrating into white noise.
If Plain Songs is just the beginning for W.W. Lowman, we are all in for a treat. The E.P. is solid across the board, and definitely worth picking up, though I’m most looking forward to a full-length from him. Bank on it: a W.W. Lowman full-length will be worth every penny.