Mine is May

Abandon Building

n reviewing DoF's previous effort, If More than Twenty People Laugh, It Wasn't Funny, I criticized artist Brian Hulick's fusion of stale, Autechre-lite beats with his wonderful guitar melodies. I note, "I've heard a thousand songs employing these beats in the past decade, and I'm getting tired of them. However, I haven't heard many electronic albums that so unabashedly celebrate the beautiful sound of an acoustic guitar. Why not create an electronic album that takes as its starting point these guitar melodies and then builds around them, adding synth sounds and minimal electronic beats." Apparently, Hulick was listening. While DoF's latest, Mine is May, does contain its share of beat-driven songs, the beats here are less glaring and better integrated with the guitar and other musical sounds. The result is a strong and more interesting album.

The best song on the album is probably the most traditional; that's the first track, "Asleep at Light," which consists largely of a beautiful acoustic melody that would not be out of place on one of Joni Mitchell's early 70s albums. It's a great way to begin, not only because the guitar playing is so good but also because the synth melodies that enter halfway through the piece seem perfectly in tune with the guitar. The piece as a whole actually reminds me of Bola's Soup album, which is largely an exercise in mood; I think that's what "Asleep at Light" is going for, as well.

Having set this plaintive mood, the album then moves into more mid-tempo territory. "Ten Cities" and "Blue Glimpse" both put the guitar in the background and let the synth melodies and digital beats take over. I criticized this artist for the beats on his earlier album, and while these beats are very similar to those other beats, they are, in fact, less glaringly fractured (less like Autechre). They're not perfect—I think more traditional rhythm sounds might have worked better—but they do work with the bouncy keyboard melody and other digital effects to create a frantic, bubbly mood.

The rest of the work's eight tracks vacillate between the ambient acoustic melodies of the first track and the bouncing, beat-driven moods on "Ten Cities." Some tracks, like "Eyes Hiding," seem to float a bit too far down the annoying beat highway. However, other tracks are more interesting. Take "Rain Not Stars." It takes a very simple acoustic melody and intersperses into it the occasional digital burp and sputter, making the otherwise straightforward tune a bit off-kilter. I like that—it's a subtle way of twisting the music away from Enya territory (which, let's be honest, is always a potential problem with acoustic and ambient mood music).

So I think this album is much better than Hulick's earlier work. Hulick, the artist, is obviously honing his craft, developing a sense of who he is and what works for him. There is a pleasantness to his music that is rare in the electronic universe, and I think his ability to harness acoustic melodies within an electronic landscape is interesting, since most electronic music that employs guitar usually focuses on the electric guitar. Mine is May, in short, is a worthy purchase. It’s not perfect, but it is pleasant, and pleasant is an unusually rare emotion in electronic music.

Reviewed by: Michael Heumann

Reviewed on: 2005-01-11

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