Surfing is a sport which requires a mastery of some rudimentary skills certainly, but for those who do it frequently enough, it is an exercise in intuition, communion with the natural world, and for lack of a better word, style. It could be said Greg Olin has a surfer's approach to music. For starters, Olin makes music in the same way a person would do yoga. It is a practice. Songs are committed to tape as part of his regimen for living, not because a product needs to be assembled. Olin has therefore amassed a backlog of recorded material which he struggles to keep track of. Until it was suggested the world would be better off with access to these songs, Olin had no real for plans them; they were just byproducts of his way of life.
Enter To Sur With Love. Recorded over a four year period, Love collects thirteen tracks from various sessions at Portland's famous Type Foundry studios recorded by friend and collaborator Adam Selzer (M. Ward, The Decemberists, Norfolk and Western, Blanket Music) with a couple home recorded gems shuffled in for variety. It's a surprisingly cohesive collection and challenges the listener a bit more than 2004's gorgeous summer sleeper, Yes Yes Okay Okay (HSH046).
Olin's lyrics first come off as stream-of-conscious, repetitive ramblings, and his soft-spoken laissez faire delivery may reinforce a notion that they play no greater role than a guitar or piano line. It's a stealthy ploy, as Olin has a knack for writing songs that you have to listen to fifty times before you realize how erotic or provocative they often are. Fittingly this album collects songs which could qualify as avant-garde pop in the tradition of The Beatles’ White Album. "Touchdown" features the pitch-bending backing vocals of Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors), "Putting On a Dumbspell" experiments with angular polyrhythms, and "China" dabbles in Tom Waits' world of cabaret blues. Were it not for Olin's intuition as a bandleader, the sonic experimentation might tank the ride but an overarching sense of effortless style and natural volition gives the songs a unique charge. We listen, much like we would watch a silhouette in the surf, waiting for the moment it plunks back into the water. With To Sur With Love, Olin takes the ride of a lifetime, equal parts preparedness from practice, and flying by the seat of his pants.
released 07 July 2005
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