Reviews for [RL74]
Squanto "A Gift and A Favor"
- Raised By Gypsies
This is my first official cassette review and I happen to be doing it as a Song By Song Review as well, so it’s double exciting for me. I’ve been listening to a lot of my old tapes lately and certain ones (Marky Mark and MC Hammer I believe) play these little notes at the start of the tape; I believe they were to adjust your volume settings. Anyway, they should still be on every modern tape and I have yet to hear it but hope to some day.
<1> “A Gift” – I hear some slight noises and then acoustic guitar notes. One thing is I won’t be able to keep track of time on the songs, so as to say, “It kicks in at the 2:20 marker” because my tape player doesn’t have cool numbers like that. But this is song is picking up now with a slight beat and a slight wave of ambience in the background. I can’t tell if this is looping or not but I bet it is acoustic guitar over some looping beats. And now clapping, though it might not be manmade. This song makes me want to take some peyote and go in the desert. But it is all too relaxing. We quietly fade out into the next song.
<2> “A Favor” – We begin with a somewhat faster progression of acoustic notes. And now the vocals come in as well. This is very folk. It reminds me of Simon and Garfunkel. I feel like I’m also hearing crickets chirp in the background. Unless this music really did somehow feed me peyote. It’s heavier on the guitar than on the vocals, which is too say it’s more music based than lyric based for this song.
<3> “A Gift, Pt. 2” – We pause before this song begins. We’re coming in ambient. It’s like ghouls are haunting me. This sounds like the dead in my nightmares trying to escape from hell if recorded by John Lennon acoustic. It just makes me keep imagining stomping on heads and sending the evils back down to hell. And here comes some static, which I had to check and is not because of my ear buds connection. And we get some noise that’s a cross between a serene acoustic guitar and screaming. This song is really just playing out the battle right now between heaven and hell, between the good and the evil that exists inside of us all. I’m not sure which one is winning though. When that distortion comes on it sounds like the evil is winning. And now the guitar is getting louder, so it’s fighting back harder. What a music video this would make. It’s telling such an amazing story. It’s like Squanto somehow managed to capture the sound of the story a campfire tells. I also can just see the flames jumping around in the cool night. Despite the obvious sound of being evil in ways, this is still overall peaceful and relaxing. Time to flip sides.
<4> “To the Grid (Demo)” – Here comes a rusty acoustic guitar sound. I’m ready for some Johnny Cash. And here come vocals again and now I’m reminded of that one twee band I used to like a lot. It wasn’t The Gwens, but I think they started with a “b”. Was it Birddog? I don’t remember. I’d have to go back and listen to old Happy Happy Birthday to Me releases. This claims to be a demo, but it’s vocals and an acoustic guitar not too much unlike the other songs, so I don’t know what makes it not complete. It sounds complete to me and I really don’t know what they’d do to make it a “mastered” copy instead of a demo. I’d like everyone to take note right now that it is in fact possible to play an acoustic guitar whilst singing and not sound like EFS. I know he comes out in everything, but this song not so much, which is a rarity. And now I hear a piano, or at least keys of some kind, and this is really picking up in the way that acoustic Get Up Kids song did on the “Walking On a Wire” album.
<5> “09/29/10, Evening” – There are pretty long pauses between songs, but not too long so it’s nice. I still think cassettes provide the best audio but maybe it’s because they’re my native form of hearing recorded music. This song begins with some sort of vocals, acoustic guitar and nature noises. I think he just sniffled. This song was made a long time ago, if the date is when it was recorded. I wonder why it took so long to be released. This acoustic guitar almost has a Nirvana tone to it, ala “Something In the Way”. Whatever’s left drips as I swing my elbow. Or does he “sling” his elbow? I should be paying better attention to these lyrics. Again, this is a very mellow song. But instead of being your normal sort of folk, this is a darker folk. Not my state. I hear something in the background. I wonder if it’s intentional. And now it’s getting really quiet, but the song is hanging on. No, I think it’s done now. I hate it when the tape finishes and makes that loud snapping noise.
- Depression Chamber
Squanto’s “a gift + a favor” is a very somber expression. Something particularly solemn overcasts the bright, sparkly acoustic guitar progressions and electronic synth based works that are contained in this release. It is a light and blurry release, very gentle. Something almost feather light.
The touches are very simple and glimmering, vibrant for what little touches need to do. There is no alarming intensity to the music, the lyrical delivery and guitar playing is never too urgent or fearful. Perhaps a little toned down and timid and even dreary in some aspect, all constructed in a very illusory fashion. Even the very erratic and loud “a gift, part 2” has no frightfully sharp explosions, or heaps of overwhelming noise. The bursts of noise are phosphorescent in demeanor and add to the very hallucinatory experience of the rest of the ascetic pieces. Squanto developed a very curious “ephemera” here. I almost wonder if this drawling of guitar, synth, and vocals is meant to be so quick to take in. I don’t mean that it does nothing for me as that is not the case, yet the easily taken in music feels so simple and transient. This quality of passing music on here is not like the music that most feel carries no substance, it is just that it’s so light and alleviating it passes seamlessly. I let the tape finish and then turn it, over and over again.
As some of you know I take my time in writing these reviews. I really attempt to avoid giving first impressions on pieces of music. Writing the first thing that comes to mind with having had no real attention paid to it is such an insult. With that being said, Squanto’s “a gift + a favor” is a release that I listened to consistently since receiving it and not once was I ever given the ability to develop even a sentence to describe it perfectly. This is the best I could do. I’m sorry to Mike Rok Lok and Ben Sqaunto/Lily if this review is not good enough. I’ll try better next time, I promise.
Co released on Rok Lok Records, and on Squanto’s very own Lily Tapes & Discs. The tape comes with a full color j-card that gives off the perception of a summer evening (to me).
- Guide Me Little Tape
Slightly ambient, somewhat acoustic folk, sometimes outsider pop from Squanto, with A Gift And A Favor, on Lily Tapes and Discs. Gentle and unasuming through the front half, with delicate finger picked strings and a choros of evening crickets, the flip of this completely destroyed me. The lead track, A Gift, Pt. 2 loops a moaning, plaintive vocal over raw strings and a tornado of noise. Unrestrained and overwhelming. To me, these sounds feel poignant and touching, but I think just as easily to another they might sound comforting and uplifting. Nice little details abound everywhere throughout. Slight background noise creeps in at times offering a charming context around which layers of vocal play losely with timing and meoldy creating a come as you are feeling. Nothing forced, just goes straight into the soul.
- Half Gifts (print) Issue #4
The chilliness of the late fall air gives you the cozy feeling that only slight discomfort can deliver, like a post-jog stretch. Weaving through trees, nature's gentle gusts sing in their hushed drone. This is the setting of Squanto's Rok Lok debut, "A Gift and A Favor". Gentle fingerpickings form a soft ambience. Chanted vocals from wilderness cult rise into the sky like campfire smoke. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?
- Cassette Love
Musical Content: Squanto’s Ben Lovell has created a consistent ambient folk album with A Gift + A Favor. Although recorded in 2012 and 2010, the tracks hang together sonically and thematically. These lonely performances illustrate the isolation of Long Island, the coolness of the early evening in late summer/early fall. There’s a sense of place on this album… only when you hear it do you realize that not many contemporary artists have that going for them. The music on A Gift + A Favor is unfiltered, with very little manipulation (save for “A Gift, Pt. 2?). Just a microphone and a performer, as it should be.
Packaging and Sound Quality: These home-dubbed tapes can sound muffled, but not this release. The tape sounds warm and clear. The full color artwork compliments the mood of the music.
- Tuning Into the Obscure
Lo fi acoustics with some textured sounds, leaning a bit into experimental territory. This EP in a way could serve as a companion to Squanto’s album, “Every Night Draws the Same Crowd,” especially since it features a demo version of the track, “To The Grid.” The sounds here are pretty mesmerizing; acoustic guitar, crickets, soft textured and layered vocals, and this ambient/textured atmosphere in spots really takes this recording to a brilliant level. (5 out of 5)
It feels like climbing a tree or passing through thicket, in your way to find a peaceful place to sit down, to breathe, to dream awake and start to discharge your mind of anxiety, turning it into quiet, silent euphoria, being outside of the burbling world for a while, hearing bird voices and the wind through leaves. There is another version of this song on “Every Night Draws the Same Crowd” (Fluid Audio, 2013). Squanto is Ben Lovell from New York. I’ve experienced similar feelings listening to some songs of Nick Drake, Jen Wood and Talons’.