Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Doveman - Castles
Doveman - Sunrise
Thomas Bartlett is something of a New York Renaissance man; when he's not gigging as a keyboardist for any of a myriad of downtown bands (among them Sam Amidon, Elysian Fields and Chocolate Genius) or writing for his own eclectic Salon audioblog, the notorious insomniac is writing new music as the master domo for his own band, Doveman.
Doveman is tender folk rock, delicately designed and soothingly delivered. Thomas plays organ and does lead vocals for the combo; in performance he slumps forward onto the piano and softly whisper-sings directly into his mic. The effect is unsettling; there's some potential to misconstrue these sort of hijinx as pretentious. Quite the opposite is true; in fact, Thomas is putting himself in a very private and personal space when he sings and by inviting you in at all, he appears to be taking a tremendous chance. This shy but somehow fearless presentation of the hopeful, fragile thing we carry inside informs Thomas' work intimately and makes for fascinating live viewing.
Bartlett describes the Doveman project as 'Lamp Rock', which he evokes in concert by dotting the stage with shining lamps. Lamp Rock, as a genre, is meant to be cozy and warm; but the metaphor is more apt when we apply it to Doveman-as-lamp : brilliant light, gently (but firmly) muted.
In many ways, I admit that I'm a little surprised that Doveman appeals to me so very much; there's a whispery/whiny element to the music that would generally turn me off. Thomas wins me over with the naked heart of his vocals, the deceptively simple (and beautiful) arrangements and the virtuosity of his band. You could make a case that Doveman fits into the Daniel Powter/James Blount school of mewling "whine rock", but you'd be wrong. Thomas' music sidesteps emo angst and boneheaded frat-boy bonhomie in favor of something more gothic, intricate and mysteriously unknowable; it's like a soundtrack to a love story by Edward Gorey.
I find that folks who do like Doveman tend to skew into a dichotomy: they either find the music terribly upsetting and nerve-racking or they think it's calm as a cup of chamomile. I fall squarely in the "calm" camp, but I certainly see the view from the other side; the tension in Doveman's songs springs in the implied storm that never quite breaks. That kind of restraint can put people on edge. Approaching the music with a light and happy heart helps quite a bit; for me and my girl, we find Doveman to be a warm bedtime blanket and excellent music to cuddle to. Which, if you'll excuse me, is what I'm off to do now... just as soon as I give you a few more songs and a bit of linkage.
Doveman - Chasing Clouds
Doveman - Sunken Queen
tell me more about it...
The four tracks on the Hut today are demos from the as-yet-unreleased new Doveman album; to the best of my knowledge, this is their virgin flight onto the internet.
Want more? You can buy the first Doveman album, 'The Acrobat', in digital form from iTunes or eMusic. Physical copies are available at amazon for fourteen bucks... but why not go direct to the publisher, swim slowly records, and buy it for a somewhat negotiable ten spot ("If for some reason you can't afford the prices listed email us something nice explaining and we will extend you love and and a cost-based price").
Visit Doveman's (somewhat neglected) blog.
Check out the current tour schedule to see if Doveman and David Thomas Broughton are playing in your town at the official Doveman Website.
My New York kids just missed him at Joe's Pub; come and see him next time we host him, eh?
Here's a handful of hit-and-miss reviews of 'The Acrobat'.
Read this Gothamist interview with Thomas and this lengthy back and forth with *Sixeyes proprietor, Alan Williamson.
Listen to (and download) three tracks from 'The Acrobat' at the Doveman Myspace.
Doveman on the radio: NPR profile/review and live on WNYC.
Some second opinions.