One of the more beautiful things about bands in the Sargent House family is the collaborations between label mates. Lisa Papineau is no exception. Her release last year with Matt Embree (ME + LP – Chez Raymond) featured Papineau’s vocals with a touch of an eerie, airy haunting vibe. Big Sir is more tech’d out. Both Papineau and Juan Alderete (bassist of The Mars Volta) have been producing this blend of ethereal bass-and-vocals meets 808-beats-and-more-vocals since the late ’90s. Before Gardens After Gardens is seemingly the product of both musical chemistry between each other and musical respect for each other.
Have a listen to Before Gardens After Gardens below!
It’s probably the most interesting blend of creativity I’ve heard in a while. Both Papineau and Alderete show no boundaries on their musical endeavors. The album snaps between lovely layerings of vocals to an interesting take on electro-dance pop within moments. The album also switches between digital drums and analog drums, manned by Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals of The Mars Volta; drummer of De Facto). The most prominent switches come from Alderete, as he subtly changes the complexities of his bass sound between and within tracks.
Vocally, Papineau is accented by a slew of backing vocalists. In contrast to ME + LP, Big Sir feels bigger. ME + LP seemed like Papineau had a microphone, held our hand, and walked us through a forest. Big Sir is more of a fun house of vocals, with Papineau distorting our sonic perceptions at will. Never does the album deviate from the focus on vocals and bass, which makes complete sense seeing as a vocalist and bassist are producing this album. However, this doesn’t make this album one-dimensional at all. It’s a sort of kaleidoscope — a crazy spectrum of what these two can do. Even more than that, it’s what these two did in terms of framing it within an album’s perspective. This isn’t just two friends busting out some jams over Skype. Well-thought out, well-written, well-produced album.
The attraction to this music may be hard outside of the lo-fi community. Although this album may be one of my favorite minimalist albums I’ve heard as of late, this isn’t necessarily an album I would recommend to any layperson. The subtle development of all the tracks, in terms of appreciating the entire album as a whole, may be left out of the shuffle-playlist culture we live in today. The elegance of the production is left at the wayside for someone looking for Alderete to shred. And shred he does… just not to the extent a die-hard TMV fan would expect. Both Papineau and Alderete shred with near-perfect ears for producing this album, and that is something many people might not really realize.
Big Sir’s Before Gardens After Gardens is a production work of art. Everything from the tracks to the tracklisting, to how the album art actually illuminates the synesthesia-like mood of the album, is done with pin-point precision. This is an album meant to be listened to from the first track to the last track. No breaks. No excuses. Just do it. Unfortunately, the album’s inherent lo-fi/minimal sound may detract those who were looking for something with a bigger sound. And although I would say this may be the biggest sounding album I’ve heard from this sort of music, this album may just be a big fish in a relatively small pond. If you have an ear for what goes behind creating a great album, this is definitely music production 101. If you’re looking for something like The Mars Volta, you might want to wait a few months more.