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Ben LaMar Gay - Open Arms to Open Us Music Album Reviews

Ben LaMar Gay - Open Arms to Open Us Music Album Reviews
The Chicago multi-instrumentalist and composer’s second album crisscrosses genres and eras, sprawling in its ambition and surprisingly precise in its attack.

In an illuminating prologue to his second full-length album, Chicago instrumentalist, composer, and vocalist Ben LaMar Gay writes of his doubts as to what he could leave behind for “the young people in my life” when faced with “the crumbling of societal facades.” He finds the answer in rhythm, “the one trueness that travels great distances and constantly survives the crumbling of facades.”

Rhythm, it turns out, is also a potent tool for opening up what could be a borderline fearsome work of experimental music to the popular ear. Open Arms to Open Us sounds simultaneously like everything and nothing, bringing to mind Bitches Brew, hip-hop, New York experimental math rockers Battles, Kid A, raga, samba, free jazz, D’Angelo, and the chipmunk-ed vocals employed by rave producers. But in its conglomerate totality, the album is too multifarious to bear more than a passing resemblance to any of the above. It’s a remarkable piece of musical pathfinding, sprawling in its ambition and surprisingly precise in its attack, an album where a zither jam (“Nyuzura,” featuring British-Rwandan singer Dorothée Munyaneza) gives way to triangle-assisted drone (“Slightly Before the Dawn”), which then cedes the floor to hip-hop tuba bounce (“Dress Me in New Love”).

LaMar Gay’s vision of musical “Pan-Americana”—reaching beyond the sawdust and spit image of classical Americana to include North and South American culture—binds the project together. In addition to rich baritone vocals, organ, balafon, cornet, zither, and a host of percussion instruments, LaMar Gay also contributes some fantastically sharp songwriting on Open Arms, such as the gorgeously gloomy, minor-key dread of “Oh Great Be the Lake” and the grandiloquent “Aunt Lola and the Quail,” a wealth of ideas never coming at the expense of brevity.

For all this, Open Arms is very much a collective work. Chicago rock band Ohmme apply vocal textures to “Sometimes I Forget How Summer Looks on You.,” Dorothée Munyaneza sounds fantastically acute against the tightly-sketched zither of “Nyuzura,” and A.Martinez’s poetry brings an earthy clarity to “I Once Carried a Blossom.” Matthew Davis’ tuba playing is a low-end highlight, while Adam Zanolini’s soprano saxophone brings an unsettling ambience to “Slightly Before the Dawn.”

Inevitably, in an album about the possibilities of rhythm, it is the drums that drive great swaths of Open Arms, their muscular embrace reaching out to bring us back to a place of deceptive familiarity. To believe in rhythm is to trust Tommaso Moretti’s pulsating beat to sweep the listener beyond the obtuse chord sequences of “Sometimes I Forget How Summer Looks on You.” with the grace of a good museum guide; it is to have faith that Moretti’s masterful hi-hat and snare skip on “Bang Melodically Bang” will transform a gnarled musical base into an unlikely tail shaker, and his caterpillar shuffle will make “Lean Back. Try Igbo” into an unlikely earworm.

To trust in rhythm, in other words, is to believe in the power of music to reach beyond generic boundaries to new—and surprisingly welcoming—worlds of opportunity and sound, where the traditional logic comes second to the philosophy of the beat. Open Arms to Open Us is adventure writ large, a rhythmical hymn to boundless possibility.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Ben LaMar Gay - Open Arms to Open Us Music Album Reviews Ben LaMar Gay - Open Arms to Open Us Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, December 08, 2021 Rating: 5

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