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Subtropical Spin

Ya gotta respect Ates Isildak. First off, dude's got a name that sounds like an Eskimo fertility god. Second, as Echo Me, Astronaut, Isildak has released an album of lucid, almost transparent guitar and voice studies, so quiveringly intimate that you can nearly feel his breath on your ear. It takes guts to freely unload your poetic angst and youthful befuddlement on strangers -- and even more to do so on people you know. I'm guessing that's who'll be the major recipient of these whimpers into the void: friends and family who know this guy as a sensitive artist of the most observant and volatile kind.

Isildak isn't a songwriter per se but a warbling lyricist with a wandering guitar stroke. Play Looks Like the Cowards Have Won and you won't walk away humming a single hook or melody. Guitar is more Isildak's accent, his voice flat and deadpan like Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes. It's strangely suited for eerie, semi-linear rambles like "The neighbors have seen me unraveling/So I wait til they're all asleep/To carve out my name into every tree," from "(Portrait) Unraveling." Occasional backing whispers rise to the surface, or some other mysterious creaks and hums drift through the scene, but it's Isildak's voice that's front and center. The final track is mostly empty space and seemingly random ambient sounds, the loose ends of a half-told story. There's a shadowy significance at work here, and though I can't tell you what it means, I'm definitely intrigued.

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Jonathan Zwickel

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