January 12, 2006

Paul Duncan "Be Careful What You Call Home"

When last we heard from Paul Duncan, he had just released an excitingly good debut album, To An Ambient Hollywood. At the time, we stated that his music was pretty, slightly experimental, slightly jazzy folk-pop that was easy on the ears and warm to the spirit. Luckily, such is still the case with Be Careful What You Call Home, as Duncan has gainfully built upon his previous record’s strong points, while adding new depths and dimensions.

One should note, though, that Be Careful What You Call Home is a different affair from the previous record. The touches of traditional folk-rock have been replaced with a more jazz-minded approach; Duncan’s singing is even more relaxed and mellow, and in some instances, such as on “You Look Like an Animal,” and “This Old House,” his voice is almost nonexistent; it’s a fine wisp of a thing, adding to the utter mellowness of the record. While comparisons to Brian Eno’s records of the mid 1970s might be a bit too lazy, it’s a comparison that’s impossible to avoid. But considering that the record’s more about mood, it’s hard not to think that Duncan’s singing style isn’t really the point.

Also, it’s hard not to get entranced by the whole vibe that’s to be found. Vocals and instrumentals quietly and gently collide with one another, and much like his debut, this isn’t a record so much as it is one long, flowing mood piece. He’s experimented with “toy” instruments, composing several gentle pieces that simply highlight the instrument: “Toy Piano,” “Toy Bass,” “Toy Bell,” etc. Throughout the album, you’ll also find gorgeous tape manipulations, banjo, piano, and sound collages—all playing together in such a way that’s not only appealing, but rewarding for those who choose to listen to it quite intensely. (Put this record on headphones, and you’ll discover magic.)

Be Careful What You Call Home is a gorgeous record, even if it’s all a bit hazy and foggy and no one song stands out above another. Duncan’s a master of mood, and if his third record is as much of a transition from this record as this record was from his debut, then Duncan will have established himself as one of today’s better music innovators. A finer, lovelier record would be hard to find.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.home-tapes.com/duncan.html
Label Website: http://www.home-tapes.com

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