Black Tie | Goodbye, Farewell (Socyermom)

cd_blacktie.jpg"Hourglass" proudly establishes itself as a piece of pure ambient melancholia, waving across the fence at its close friends, film music and classical.







There are lots of bands out there who will put an instrumental track or two on their record to provide a bit of variety. And of course, the post-rock era has given rise to more and more bands who are purely instrumental. But it takes a rather special group to make a mostly instrumental album that’s adorned with a few vocal tracks here and there. The aesthetic intent of that is something I find fascinating, and it’s something that Albuquerque’s Black Tie have conceived and executed beautifully on Goodbye, Farewell, their second release.

The genius music lovers who run Team Clermont have practically invented a subgenre with artists on their roster like The Inner Banks and Black Tie, who make fluid, breezy, exquisitely rendered sonic soufflés that seem tailor-made for lazing on a Sunday afternoon, perhaps curling up with a good book. Black Tie is largely the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Roger Apodaca, and you’d be right to peg him as the contemplative sort upon hearing the mellow, evocative sounds on this disc.

Opener and longest track (at eight-plus minutes) "For the Dead" is a muscular, engaging piece that’s considerably more than simply nice background music, although it can function as such. Paul Newcomb’s lithe cello playing and Ryan Anthony’s steady percussion are a real pleasure to hear, and the piece keeps inching forward in an involving manner. About half a dozen or so tracks delve into more melancholy territory, with a hallmark being the three notes of a guitar chord being picked individually and in a moody, hypnotic manner. Examples of this include "Alchemy" (Apodaca plays guitar and saw on this one; fellow guitarist Sean McCullough plays a different guitar line—the tasteful simplicity on display here is a marvel) and "Black Velvet Morning," which features a beautiful trumpet solo by Justin Ray and another lovely cello turn by Newcomb.

"Hourglass" is also in this category, and it proudly establishes itself as a piece of pure ambient melancholia, waving across the fence at its close friends, film music and classical. I absolutely love stuff like this, i.e., music that creates a mood but doesn’t ever get so busy that you lose your listening options: drifting off to sleep, indulging in hazy nostalgia, or simply letting the graceful drift of sound facilitate whatever else you’re doing.

Apodaca and Co. clearly have an intuitive feel for this style, and there’s heartfelt purity to virtually every track. That includes the vocal pieces: on "Wide Open," Apodaca is joined by a sweet-voiced gal named Audrey Lee, and the resulting harmonies and breezy backing arrangement are just pure pleasure. "Afraid to Die" sounds like a wide-eyed, pastoral meditation on the title concept—it induces positive thinking—but curiously, the pretty Apodaca-Lee vocals don’t enter until the last minute of this nearly six-minute gem. I don’t know what that signifies, exactly, but it makes for a richer, more compelling listening experience than one might think.

Goodbye, Farewell is a fine album, the sort of quiet little treasure that deserves to be discovered by lovers of soft breezes, fond memories, and wispy melodies that caress both your ears and your psyche. You wear it well, Black Tie. A- | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Tortoise, Tristeza, the general art of mellowing out

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