|Pressed And’s plight is a shifty one. It’s a dangerous move to declare one’s own mission as clearly as they have for Stone Candles, for which the (originally) NC-based duo flex their understanding of the incredibly blurry line between organic and synthetic musicianship in modern pop. Stone Candles tows that line eloquently, with nary a misstep, in a manner that’s altogether accessible, albeit in a style of an extremely niche appreciation.|
The collaborative project of musicians Mat Jones and Andrew Hamlet, Pressed And, as a band, has strove to represent a harmonic unity of synthetic and natural instrumentation. While their 2011 debut Imbue Up painted a darkly enchanting sonic landscape, and 2012 follow-up Hyper Thistle EP hinted at a tinge of tribal aggression to come, it’s in their sophomore LP Stone Candles that they’ve etched out a new enclave with the addition of a savvy for beat production. Perhaps surprisingly, their beat-work really holds its own, frequently capturing the stylistic aggression of modern hip-hop producer acts like Toro y Moi and AraabMuzik.
Take leadoff single “Creed Unlove,” on which Pressed And elaborate on their ties to ambient electronica, particularly to the sleepy, archaic samplings of Ghost Box Records and its many successors. The song’s fuzz-laden, dusty keyboard tones run parallel to deep cuts from albums by the likes of The Memory Tapes and Styrofoam. Track two’s “Boo” is a beautiful example of all things Pressed And happening at once: dreamlike electronica synth-lines, energetic rhythms, and complex, arpeggiated guitar lines all come together and are pulled off with mass effect.
On the more organic side, Stone Candles dabbles in all things southern. When Jones’ vocals aren’t downright mutilated by effects processing, he sings with a throaty croon, the kind that really makes you feel the rumbling in your jowels, like a good old-fashioned Mississippi blues star. Hamlet, all the while, plucks away at rattling, tinny strings. The combination, in conjunction with the songwriting, gives the album a sort of worldliness. While its sound is distinctly Southern, there are some unions of melody an rhythm that give off distinctly African and Middle Eastern feels.
There’s a frequent call-and-response dynamic throughout the album, which often features back-and-forth of vocals followed by guitar-work in two-minute intervals. This free-spirited rivalry of vocals and instrumentation, egged on by some rallying synths and effects, prevails throughout the bulk of Stone Candles. The alternated pacing creates an odd illusion of formulaic songwriting veiled by apparent solo-heavy jam sessions. It’s like watching a long-standing sibling rivalry unfold before your eyes, as two dedicated instrumentalists, one with guitar in hand, the other a microphone, meet head to head with a backing track fit for a rap battle. It’s nothing if not intriguing. - In Your Speakers