Spencer Radcliffe & R.L. Kelly • Brown Horse
OCT040 | Released October 4, 2014
Cassette tapes currently sold out / Download
Radcliffe takes over the record’s A-side, piecing together ramshackle sounds and samples with acoustic guitar, like the wistful “Green Things” that layers droning Casio organs with glockenspiel and a cheery recorder. Radcliffe’s music feels inherently child-like, from the instruments that make up his sound palette to the indecisive melodies and shape-shifting songs. The end of “Dorsal Collapse” literally collapses into ringing noise and distorted, rambling voices like a weird nightmare. “My Song”‘s arpeggiating toy keyboard and primitive, sampled beat backs a story about a guy “who said some things that really messed with my head,” and deadpanned, “I said, ‘That’s dope,’ and immediately regretted it.”
A lot of the material on Radcliffe’s side feels reminiscent of Sung Tongs or the work of David Plell: complex and ever-changing with an offbeat sense of humor. R.L. Kelly guests on the album’s title track, which segues nicely into her half of the record. Much like her work on her split with Alex G or her solo EP from last year, Levy’s music is largely based around her voice and an acoustic guitar. Her lyrics paint stark, devastating pictures but on Brown Horse there’s a glimmer of positivity with each song. Especially on the gorgeous pep-talk of “Wake Up” which seeks to cheer up a bullied schoolkid through its affirmations of, “They wanna hurt you, because they’re hurting too.”
There’s a lot of despair packed into these short songs, but it’s almost always inspirational and encouraging rather than self-pitying. There’s empowerment in empathy, and Brown Horse is chock full of it, from the disinterested antagonist in “Tattoo” to the distant friend or love interest in “Again.” The album closes with “The Great Big World,” once again featuring both artists together to close out the B-side, and as the song erupts into a cacophonous climax everyone involved repeats: “the great, great, great big world keeps spinning.” Sure, it’s a cliché, but sometimes it’s the simplest things that affect you in the biggest ways.
-Adam Ward, Portals