Having spent the last few years proving himself to be quite the jack of all trades (engineering the Dirty Projectors’ art-rock masterpiece Bitte Orca, touring with guitar wunderkind Marnie Stern, etc.), Raleigh Moncrief sets out to prove he can make the music just as well on his own with his debut on Anticon Records, Watered Lawn. The result is a surprisingly fresh offering, a splendid record that’s exactly as harmonically rich and pleasantly washed out as you’d expect from someone who counts Baths and Odd Nodsam among his labelmates. His expertise as a producer shines through in the album’s more intricate moments, “A Day to Die” and the slow-strummed “Waiting For My Brothers Here”, both of which exemplify Moncrief’s curious musical approach: equal parts sprawling, wide-screen cinematics and muted minimalism.
From the start that is, Lawn’s chiming opener, “The Air” – Moncrief is careful not to align himself with any particular genre or style, especially not with the sudden surge of post-James Blake beat-smart crooners, eschewing any sort of easy classification at all turns. While this attempt at engaging the listener from start to finish succeeds at keeping things fresh and interesting for most of the record on initial listens, it marks Watered Lawn with a certain vagueness that renders much of it rather unmemorable. It’s interesting then that the album’s most intriguing track is also its most straightforward: the minimal beat-driven “Lament for Morning”. Built around a twitching synth line, mashing drums, and a masterfully chopped-up vocal, it’s a three-minute highlight reel of everything Raleigh Moncrief does best on Watered Lawn.
Essential Tracks: “Lament for Morning”, “Waiting For My Brothers Here”, “I Just Saw”.