Living Bridge is a 25 song, 2 CD collection of newly recorded songs by bands who
have previously worked at the Rare Book Room Studio in Brooklyn, New York. It
was produced by Nicolas Vernhes (its owner since 1995) and marks Rare Book Room
Records first release.
These are not outakes; all the songs, but one*, were recorded for the exclusive
purpose of this collection.
The bands were asked if they would record one song of their choice, meant to be
part of a collection highlighting the varying types of music which are the
jumping-off point for the label. The bands were also given free reign to
experiment and try new approaches for this one of a kind record.
To help make all these different styles of music flow as an album, the bands
were encouraged to create long intros and outros (when appropriate) so the songs
could cross-fade into one another, creating an organic way to proceed through
In its essence, ?Living Bridge? is a mixed tape made with and for the musicians
who have helped shape the Rare Book Room Studio**. And as the first release for
the label, it also hints at the upcoming full lengths from Palms (Berlin and
NYC) and Lia Ices (NYC), both of which appear here.
*The Silver Jews track ?Self Ignition? was produced by Nicolas at the Rare Book
Room in 1998 as part of ?American Water? (Drag City-DC149) but didn?t make it on
that record. It was released as a b-side to a UK-only single and has been
[Rare Book Room; 2008]
For over a decade, Nicolas Vernhes has brought a seemingly infinite amount of indie bands to his Rare Book Room studio. So it makes sense that Vernhes chose to inaugurate his new label with a compilation of groups recorded in his Brooklyn lair. The surprise with Living Bridge is how cohesive and consistent it is. Whether it's Vernhes' production, the groups' stylistic overlaps, or simply the high quality of the music, something makes this 25-track, 2xCD collection sound more like an album than any compilation should rightly be expected to.
Vernhes creates Living Bridge's flow by mixing the songs roughly like a DJ (as he told Pitchfork in January, he "made sure to record extended intros and outros so the songs merge together into one long, but indexed, piece of music"). But that approach would be just a gimmick were the songs not so congruous, so alike in tone and mood. It might be hard to imagine Black Dice and Tara Jane O'Neil sounding similar, and no one will mistake the former's throbbing bleeps for the latter's soft musings. But both of their contributions possess a subtlety and restraint that runs throughout the majority of Living Bridge.
That common feel is strongest on disc one, which progresses almost seamlessly. The loping hum of Telepathe's "I Cant' Stand It" climbs to a shoegaze pitch, which melts nicely into Palms' minimal trance "Der Koening". Later, Blood on the Wall adorn a simple bass line with the haunting chill of EVOL-era Sonic Youth, a vibe that perks up in Silver Jews' aching melodies, then rises into Charles Gansa's piano-driven croon. The peak of all this building intoxication is Samara Lubelski's "Ego Blossoms". Diverging from the version found on her recent Parallel Suns album, it forgoes percussion for layers of mesmerizing keyboards.
Disc two continues that aura, opening with the a cappella freeze of Theo Angell, the clipped hooks of Rings, and the airy pop of Deerhunter. But the remainder doesn't catch quite the atmosphere of disc one. The moods are less consistent, and Vernhes' transitions aren't as effective. But the music is still pretty good, from Enon's pulsing new wave to John Wolfington's majestic melody to Sam Jayne's Malkmus-like sway. Only after Jayne's cut does Living Bridge falter, finishing with generic punk, synth-pop, and painfully-bad soft-rock that would embarrass even Journey, by someone called the Jewish.
Still, on the whole, Living Bridge is so strong that it's tempting to draw overreaching conclusions-- that this represents the most interesting indie rock around, or that it proves that sonically less is more, or that it's a model for compilations that hope to be more than just a highlight reel. But like any good album, Living Bridge is valuable primarily as an aesthetic experience, its music a stronger statement than any thesis one might try to impose on it.
-Marc Masters, February 25, 2008