It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring Andrew Tuttle’s enrapturing ambient Americana opus FLEETING ADVENTURE, and Why Bonnie’s towering debut 90 IN NOVEMBER!
Andrew Tuttle – FLEETING ADVENTURE
Genre: Ambient Folk
Favorite Tracks: “Overnight’s a Weekend,” “Correlation,” “Filtering”
There’s an inherent magic to FLEETING ADVENTURE that’s impossible to ignore. It’s in how Andrew Tuttle wraps himself around your heart in an instant, flickers of guitar and banjo enveloped in soft reverb and delicate melodies, borrowing heavily from traditional Americana instrumentation that gives the music an immediate sense of history and comfort. Inspired by the lush greenery of the subtropics, the majestic landscapes bloomed from his soil of strings, woodwinds and electronics are as breathtaking as they are emotionally captivating, FLEETING ADVENTURE’s homey compositions expand to the size of a mountain range, stretching far from its intimate beginnings. Through his enlistment of post-country and ambient Americana greats like Luke Schnieder, Chuck Johnson and Steve Gunn, FLEETING ADVENTURE achieves a sound that’s both homespun and majestic at once. As Tuttle and his collaborators navigate these vast, dreamy landscapes, they unearth a deeply instinctive and organically grown internal logic that guides the album down its various ambient country roads.
Built around swarms of Tuttle’s melodic banjo and instrumental support from more than a dozen people, the vastness they conjure allows FLEETING ADVENTURE’s soft melodies to stand out and project in the mix without ever getting in the way of its peacefulness and heart. Like much of the best country songs out there, Tuttle’s music relies on simple, straightforward melodies to get its ideas across: “Overnight’s a Weekend”s repeated three-bar banjo lead overdubbed with Joe Saxby’s woody saxophone and a delicate countermelody from Aurélie Ferrière’s violin, the playful guitar runs that give definition to “Freeway Flex”s groaning synth drones and shimmering ambient layers; “New Breakfast Habit”s misty banjo melody that ripples through the mix from delay pedals and reverb. Where FLEEING ADVENTURE could have easily leaned into darker and more anxious ambient pieces, with all that palpable tension and anxiety many albums like this rely on for success, Tuttle’s work here is much more serene and hopeful, centering itself on comfort and wonder as he takes you from “Next Week, Pending”s snowy hilltops to “There’s Always a Crow”s serene forest filled with birdsong he closes the album out with. Dread and nervousness are at the far back of the mind when FLEETING ADVENTURE is on, Tuttle’s focus on a softer beauty making for some of the most relaxing and intimate music this year.
And even as things expand to cosmic proportions, Tuttle and his team handle it all with grace. FLEETING ADVENTURE’s longer tracks run the risk of being too little for too long, but that never happens because they’re constantly expanding and moving forward. “Filtering”s growth from open-air ambiance into a soaring chamber composition outfitted with guitar, violin, saxophone and synths spacious and breathable, but never restless and lost. You end up entering a sort of flow state when listening to the album, subject to the myriad ways you’ll float on FLEETING ADVENTURE’s watery surface, but always engaged and paying attention to what’s coming next and how the music changes over longer periods of time. It also causes the shorter songs become even more potent and arresting as Tuttle squishes everything into a tighter frame. “Freeway Flex”s euphoric three minutes of trickling guitars and gleaming electronics a perfect centerpiece while the quicker guitar work on “Correlation” and “New Breakfast Habit” show off Tuttle’s instrumental chops in a way that simply isn’t possible when he’s working on the widescreen warmth of “Filtering” or “Overnight’s a Weekend.” FLEETING ADVENTURE is never anything too crazy, but that immediate understanding and familiarity you build with the album in an instant gives Tuttle the ability to win your heart over without ever having to trade the clarity and solace his music brings.
Reassuring and direct but never heartless, FLEETING ADVENTURE is like few other ambient albums this year, not aiming for surreal scenery or chest-tightening gloom, but instead the innate and relaxed environments of the world around us. It’s a hard style to pull off, but Tuttle has an incredibly solid understanding of all the little things that make being in those places such a delight, the way sunbeams weave their way around tree branches or tall grass sways with the wind given extra attention and care, FLEETING ADVENTURE not only concerned with building those worlds but fleshing them out and giving them character. Across its seven marvelous tracks, he achieves that goal every single time, never losing sight of what makes FLEETING ADVENTURE such a special and sincere listen all the way through. Andrew Tuttle knows what’s needed to take his albums to the next level, and that unique perspective on ambient country he brings with FLEETING ADVENTURE is the only thing needed to bring you into his generous and lively world. Check it out on Bandcamp. [Lurien Zitterkopf]
Why Bonnie – 90 IN NOVEMBER
Genre: Indie, Americana, Alternative
Favorite Tracks: “Sharp Turn”, “90 In November”
You can almost picture Why Bonnie’s Blair Howerton leaving their hometown in Houston—jumping in a beat up car whose radio spills nothing but ‘90s college rock radio on repeat—and gunning it for New York in search of a new beginning. It is that journey, and the touchpoints it evokes, that saturate her band’s debut record. The Lone Star State’s country influence is tattooed like a flag on the skin of 90 IN NOVEMBER, as is the rich heritage of musicianship associated with the southern states. On “Nowhere LA,” emanating from tube amps that sound like they’ve been warming up for decades, Howerton finds a peaceful appreciation of where she is coming from, without letting it define her future. A similar soothing twang accompanies the record’s title track, as seeds of hope sprout from a scorched earth in grooving guitar chords and a retro Buddy Holly solo.
As Howerton hits the road, there is fear of what is being left behind, coupled with whether the same ghosts she is running from await her at her destination. That fear is overcome with movement, movement towards a place where steps can be taken to a happier self. The ‘90s alt rock you envisage blasting from those car speakers is important to the story too. After all, 90 IN NOVEMBER is not all rose tinted Americana, and tracks such as “Sharp Turn” are frayed at the edges like the perfect pair of distressed jeans, and it is this bite that captures the conflicts examined in Howertons lyrics. Why Bonnie has such a great grip of wholesome clean tones, though, that they don’t need to get too messy to grab your attention. A fleck of distortion, a break in Howertons voice or some unchecked feedback is all it takes to make their point, and “Sailor Mouth” and “Hot Car” are all the more powerful for it.
90 IN NOVEMBER is defined by beautiful moments, with a gentle inclusivity in the arrangements, yet it still feels like an album for outsiders. It’s for those on the fringes who cherish records that help them to make sense of themselves. It is the sound emanating from the headphones of those on the sides of the dance hall, never once considering stepping on the floor. It could be argued Why Bonnie has found their perfect label for this release in Keeled Scales, a label synonymous with embracing the best parts of Texas and pushing them forward in new and positive ways. It can be a cold, frightful world but 90 IN NOVEMBER still recalls the baking heat of Houston, and with the help of some distance Howerton has found that all roads traveled make up who we are. Give it a spin on Bandcamp. [Craig Howieson]