The peripatetic Peter Broderick (occasionally along with his sister Heather) has lent his musical services to innumerable local acts, including, but not limited to his own band Horsefeathers, while supporting recordings by Laura Gibson, Loch Lomond, Norfolk and Western, M. Ward and Delorean, to name a few- playing pretty much anything with strings or keys, including the musical saw, from time to time.
In 2007, Broderick left Portland for a European tour, including an extended stay in Denmark, where he met up with the band Efterklang, opening their shows all around the continent, while lending his formidable violin stylings to their performances.
At the end of that year and the beginning of this one, Broderick set out in a different direction for himself, recording an album with him singing his compositions (a first- he does not usually sing and tends to play on other peoples’ material) while NOT playing violin or piano to back them. He did, however, play all the instruments found here: guitar- electric and acoustic, steel guitar, mandolin, banjo, saw, clay whistle, organ, celeste, bass, synth bass, drums and other percussion, as well as harmonium, glockenspiel and vibes. It’s a one man project. Well, his father- unaware he was being recorded- does play acoustic guitar on “Maps.” And a fellow named Casper Clausen a Danish musician, sings with him on “Games.”
“Games” is a multi-layered choral/vocal number, with Peter’s and Casper’s numerous voices being recorded in a stairwell in Gothenburg, Sweden. It’s a short piece but ethereal in context. A gentle ballad, the piquant “And It’s Alright” focuses attention on Broderick’s voice- soft and vibrant (perhaps he uses too many effects on his vocal- most likely out a reluctance to truly disclose himself in his recordings). Again, multi-tracked vocals are used to great results, over subtle layers of acoustic guitars and percussion . Very nice.
Simply constructed, “With The Notes In My Ears” is a sparse, sensitive number. A pretty song, with mere nylon string accompaniment to back his chorales vocals. The mostly instrumental “Esben Snares Gade 11, 2tv” piece (don’t ask me what it means) is given an eerie coloration with the inclusion of a musical saw in the front end of the song. Acoustic guitars and a banjo- lend the song a fireside quality that is quite pleasurable.
In some ways, Broderick’s voice is reminiscent of our dear, departed Elliot Smith- boyish and shy, sometimes hardly more than a whisper (think “Angeles”), often heavily chorused. Even his guitar is reminiscent of Smith’s. Check “Below It” for an example. “Sickness, Bury” is another wordless entry (well, there are some sort of lyrics in the back half of the song, but they are mostly unintelligible), with a bevy of stacked instruments creating a moody dark setting.
“Not At Home” recalls the very early work of Paul Simon (and Garfunkel), vaguely related to songs such as “Scarborough Fair” or “Dangling Conversation,” canticle-like in its construction. Memorable. I once met a woman who played me recordings of herself singing (sort of Paul Horn-like) in various tunnels and freeway overpasses. She was a little crazy, but her recordings were hauntingly gorgeous. That is sort of what the halting “There And Here” sounds like.
The aforementioned “Maps” is another introspective piece (that pretty much sums up the whole album), although it does seem to build to a certain low-key intensity, perhaps not found on the preceding cuts- mostly attributable to an abrasive crash cymbal. “Games Again” is perhaps a vague recasting of the first number- although that is not patently obvious. However, this version comes with electric guitar, organ and celeste backing.
Peter Broderick has created an airily contemplative album, for his first venture, rich and lush in its detail. It is not one to rock your world perhaps, but it is sure to soothe your soul.