Padang Food Tigers: Ready Country Nimbus
Bathetic Records

What an unexpectedly lovely recording this is from Rameses III members Stephen Lewis and Spencer Grady under the Padang Food Tigers name. On Ready Country Nimbus, the duo opts for a pastoral and plaintive sound that's as refreshing as it is appealing. The vinyl disc's fifteen brief songs (only two push past the three-minute mark) are sepia-tinged vignettes imbued with nostalgia, each one like a faded photograph from a long-ago family beach or camp outing.

A number of things give the thirty-one-minute album its soothing character, among them the relaxed and rustic feel of the pieces themselves, which often play like backporch reveries, and the instrumentation, which centers on acoustic guitar, banjo, melodica, strings, harmonium, and piano. Field recordings of the natural outdoors are prominently featured and used in such a way as to enhance the expansive character the tracks already possess (thunder, traffic noise, and bird chirps surface during “Pymers Mead,” while the joyous sound of children laughing appears in “Little Smiler”).

As might be expected from a recording of fifteen songs, moods vary, in this case from mournful (“In My Heart I'm Already Gone”) to peaceful (“Little Smiler”). If there's a downside to the album, it's that lengthier track times would have allowed its pieces to leave an even stronger impression. The lovely title setting, for instance, is long enough at three minutes to make its poignant presence felt without in any way overstaying its welcome. Having said that, though pieces such as “Julliette” and “Lone Carson” are criminally short, they're still long enough to be able to establish their shimmering, heartfelt soundworlds. In a sense, however, the point is moot because Ready Country Nimbus is best broached not at the level of the individual piece but rather as a cumulative whole.

June 2012