Lately, when people have approached me in search of new music, I’ve been insisting that the music scene in Portland, OR, has been spawning one great band after another. And Boy Eats Drum Machine (BEDM) is point in case.
BEDM is back with the evermore whimsical 2007 album, “Two Ghosts.” I haven’t heard a band hold such abstract music together with such delicate threads since Anathallo burst onto the scene a couple years ago. With everything from epic timpani beats in “(in) Crossing Wind” to edgy turntable mixes in “’We’ll Blacken Up the Sky,’” this band knows how to take educated risks.
Lead vocalist, Jon Ragel, has a familiar voice that makes singing sound like an easy task. He has an almost Brad Nowall voice; and even uses some Sublime-esque lyrics. Check out “From an Oregon Shore” and see for yourself. There are also hints of electronic collaboration, much like what local sweethearts Mercir are doing. But wait, there’s more…
Many of the tracks feature heavy, repetitive drum beats, especially evident in “Into the Deep Spaces of the West” and “’Tie Them to the Trees.’” But along side these nearly tribal and electronic sounds, Ragel sprinkles in triumphant strings and soothing vocal melodies, creating a musical mishmash that can only be pulled off by a select few. BEDM brings a fresh approach to what it means to be a musician in today’s indie rock scene.
The organization of “Two Ghosts” as a whole is a story of lovers escaping an oppressive society, and the album artwork inside the CD case reflects that theme. The CD is meant to be listened to as a whole, rather than picking out a catchy single. The overall musical experience being set-up as a story helps tie together any loose ends that might remain from the random combinations of genres and instruments, which is typical of BEDM.
What I can really appreciate about “Two Ghosts” is that BEDM doesn’t seem to have to try very hard to make this album a work of art. The juxtaposition of uncommon tones and the variety of styles present could easily make a band seem like they were trying to accomplish something great with a new album. Especially when you add operatic backup vocals, a full set of symphonic strings, and an accordion. But kudos to BEDM: this album is a precarious orchestration of well-executed creativity.
Reviewed by Karalee