Kelbach: Ohio Route 2
Sparkwood Records

Certainly one of the major challenges any music producer faces when crafting an EP has to do with making a lasting impression despite the recording's modest running time. By way of illustration, Kevin Kelbach's Ohio Route 2 is a mere twenty-eight minutes in length yet makes such a powerful impression that the material stays with you long after the EP's over. That he manages to accomplish this impresses even more when the ambient material's generally restrained character is taken into account.

Designed to reflect its creator's memories of the northern Ohio shore, the EP's deeply felt content lives up to its billing as a “moving seven-part love letter to the state of the buckeye trees and the heart of it all.” Instrument sounds and field recordings work together to form stirring snapshots that evoke a host of nature settings. During the opening title track, a plaintive six-note theme is introduced, in this first case on guitar, that will recur in different form throughout the EP. The equally becalmed second track, “When I Didn't Know Which Way Was Up, She Was the Ground,” announces a shift from electric guitar to acoustic piano along with nature sounds that reinforce the material's daydream-like character, after which the introductory theme re-appears in “Rest Stop,” now voiced by piano, and during “Blinking Red Lights and the Vanishing Point of Power Lines,” this time played on guitar with a relaxed rhythm backing part of the mix. The barely audible sounds of a person's whispered musings during “Memories of the Lake at Night” amplifies the dream-like character of the release, especially when the voice is conjoined to fuzz-toned ambient guitar textures.

Working with a minimal number of elements, Kelbach has produced a strikingly powerful memory suite that in an abbreviated amount of time succeeds in conveying everything from nostalgia and sadness to resilience and joy. As pretty as the music is, it's also affecting in the way its melodies and atmospheres work together to convey emotion.

September 2017