A Gilbert Play: Lay-by
Dreamboat Music / a girec

Emanating from cellar studio in the center of Stockholm comes fifty minutes of arresting ambient-post-rock courtesy of the oddly-named a gilbert play (real name: Johansson). Lay-by is the third full-length by this mysterious one-man band that, using deft sleight-of-hand, convincingly simulates a full ensemble sound. Electric guitar typically occupies the front line with a supportive framework assembled from bass, drums, keyboards, vibes, and computer surrounding it. Don't let the computer detail mislead you, however: one of Lay-by's major charms is the natural, analog-styled quality of the “band's” loose attack, plus its ability to encompass multiple genres—ambient, post-rock, electronica—without expressing allegiance to any one in particular. An oft-dreamy and languorous feel infuses the songs which, at the same time, push purposively forward with a strong sense of direction. In its darker moments, the off-kilter melodic swoon of “Strange Days, Here I Am” even vague hints at a Nino Rota influence; certainly the music is strongly cinematic in its moody deployment of vibes and electric guitar strums. Enhancing the album's appeal is the fact that the songs are generally in the five-minute range—enough time to flesh out a given composition but not so long that the piece in question overstays its welcome.

The album really kicks into gear with the advent of the second piece, “All Together Now,” whose combination of vibes and streaming electric guitars makes the song—and the album in general, as often as not—resemble an imaginary in-studio session between Fripp & Eno and Tortoise—the former present in the restrained ambient character of the material and the razor-sharp electric guitar lines, and the latter in the track's rhythm-based, vibes-accented propulsion. That Fripp-like sound emerges elsewhere too, such as in “Making Mud Pies At Noon” where it's accompanied by tremolo guitar shudders and trippy organ flourishes that lend the song a rather psychedelic vibe. The influence surfaces again when a jubilant Eno-like theme sings out over a kinetic, krautrock-inflected rhythm base during “24 Hours Parking.” The album ends with “Good Morning,” a slow and gentle waltz that's also the release's longest track—a good thing too, given how beautiful its chord progressions are and the sensitivity with which the song's lyrical guitar melodies are executed. And wouldn't you know it, the piece ends with two minutes that could easily pass for a No Pussyfooting outtake, so similar is it to the sound of that landmark album.

December 2008