Seeing the self titled debut from the Salt Lake City based band Gothen (predominantly the work of Evan Jolley) finally surface is a true demonstration of the wondrous impact of the internet. The band caught our attention with a promotional video back in January which sees them jamming out a euphonious piano hook accompanied with a link to their kickstarter page. A month later, enough faithful listeners optimistically delved in to their pockets to fund the propitious LP in the hope that they would hear more material of a similar ilk. Fortunately, the gamble paid off for the speculators as Gothen have managed to compose a record that falls nothing short of being both immensely innovative and superbly textured.
The roots of this record can be traced back to 2009 when lead singer and principal creative figure in the band Evan Blades Jolley spent some time out of his native land to reside in rural Norway. It was in this sparse and desolate Scandinavian environment that Evan could begin crafting tracks that would contribute to the album. His time was spent with a fractured guitar and a rustic tape recorder and these solitary barn sessions helped establish the bones of the record.
Once back in America, the primitive songs recorded in Norway were fleshed out and the sculpting process began. ‘Sacred Masses’ is the opening number on the record which establishes the feel of what the album entails for the listener. Staccato guitar plucks characterise the introduction under a syncopated percussive rhythm before Evan isolates his delicate vocals to then collide with acoustic splendour. From this point, the album employs an abundance of incredibly diverse musical choices. While track three ‘Am’ has an extremely minimalist and intimate feel as muted chords scuffle underneath lonesome vocals, there are other tracks on the record that couldn’t be further away from this feel. ‘Silver Horses’ bursts explosively with expansive orchestral sounds that are anything but claustrophobic. Rather, they feel like they would be more appropriate washing over the expansive Nordic landscape as it almost involuntarily conveys colourful imagery in the mind of the listener. To then return to a more solitary feel, the track then falls asleep to a dark yet melodic piano line that decorates the accompaniment of eery strings.
At track 7, the very same euphonious piano hook which first caught our attention features on the album as the beautifully crafted ‘Until They Sail’. Unlike the video recording, the album version proves to be much more audacious and expansive than its predecessor, marking its evolution from a studio jam to a track that is both bold and timelessly mellifluous. Another highlight track includes the intricately textured ‘Overman’ which nods it head to a variety of musical styles. The marriage between the ethereal flutes and bass clarinet act as a sandwich for the overall composition. In between this woodwind based infrastructure sits a folk inspired melody which acquaints itself with swirling angelic howls and glorious brass arrangements before concluding with a beautifully peculiar carnival-esque breakdown. This record is a testament to Jolley’s ability to craft fundamentally pioneering music. Although the album is rooted in traditional influences, it is difficult to find music from a band today that sounds quite as inspirational.
Words: George Hemmati