Episode 1: Other Creatures (Gym Deer, 2014)
Stereotypically awkward, first-drafty, and best-kept-to-oneself, experiments in one's bedroom can, under the right conditions, lead to a kind of magic that mightn't have been achieved under harsher fluorescents or wider confines—a quiet crucible.
Rob Lee, the man behind Gym, Deer, is a case of one whose limited recording set-up helped not only to realize his vision but to shape its aesthetic. His early recordings, released as Other, Ways are lo-fi, layered novellas in which Rob functions as lead and background, bass and percussion, all stacked and coordinated within Garageband. The gentle hiss, ever present due to the layering of room sound with every successive overdub, presents itself more as feature than bug: a testament to the work.
If you want something done right, do it yourself, yeah? Sure, unless, of course, you can get Mallory Glaser, Angelo Spagnolo, and Anthony LaMarca involved. Then you get them.
Which brings us to 2014's Other Creatures, an album leaning heavier on studio than bedroom, retaining that Arthur Russell homemade sensibility and sensitivity, but placing it atop a full-color backdrop that would appeal to any Radiohead fan.
The modern and the ancient mingle in Rob and Mallory's parallel vocal lines, at first seemingly floating, but as the tunes build, the driving make-shift electronic percussion appears, more fully revealing the architecture, and you find yourself whirling under geometric domes.
It blooms and blooms.
I should note that this is a brief EP, clocking in at under 20 minutes, but an epic one in its way over the course of four gorgeous tracks—similar to how a meal of small, well-balanced, high-quality portions can both fill you up and satisfy you in a way that an all-you-can-eat buffet might not. It’s what’s in the story that counts.
In Other Creatures' second track, “Revolutionary,” Lee explores an idea from permaculturist Bill Mollison that revolutions can't succeed without a focus on the creation of food and shelter. The music of Gym, Deer is not “out there” or revolutionary per se, but it does nourish, and it's certainly something to live in for a while.
I’m Josh Rutner, and that’s your album of the week.