Kyle Hamlett Uno

Kyle Hamlett Uno

Whisperer, Nathan Golub

Wed, March 27, 2019

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

The Pinhook

Durham, NC

$8.00

This event is all ages

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Kyle Hamlett Uno
Kyle Hamlett Uno
Hamlett has fronted Nashville art-rock band lylas for nearly 15 years. On Nowhere Far, his first proper solo album, he invokes the strange chamber of acoustic textures present in early lylas material, albeit charged with his current sense of sonic adventure. Acousti-kraut chugs sidle up to fingerstyle drone poems, and half remembered reveries. Hamlett keeps one eye on the human experience surrounding us all, and one eye deeply inward. Mysterious and inquisitive, questions are answered with even stranger questions. Nowhere Far suggests that sometimes to get the farthest out, one simply has to look inside.
Nowhere...
...Far
Whisperer
Whisperer
To say that Sam Fuller-Smith is my favorite male vocalist working today might sound like an exaggeration, but it isn’t. If a good vocalist is someone who recognizes their gifts and limitations and sorts out how best to work within those boundaries then Sam is in the enviable position of possessing not only an effortless tenor but a craftsman’s command of that tool. None of the pitfalls of the typical modern male vocalist, the over-annunciation, the pinched whine, the emotionally empty affectation, are to be found here. Instead, there’s only a pure reed of a voice and its methodically constructed accompaniment. Fuller-Smith achieves a delicate balancing act in that his songs are impressionistic yet direct, even deceptively so. They don’t tell stories nor are they about particular situations, but are the stuff of his experiences and his attempts to work through the way he encounters them. They are forward-looking and modern despite being rooted in the past. To me, that makes them timeless.
Though Fuller-Smith’s life has spanned the United States (Seattle, Lawrence, Nashville and Raleigh from West Coast to East) I find his music uniquely evocative of the Midwest. This is American Music without being Americana. It bears none of the tired genre-markers of that over-conscious, overwrought and increasingly closed system. It might sound tired to say that the low rumble running throughout the background of opener “Don’t Be a Stranger” isn’t unlike big rigs crisscrossing the American Steppe; or that everything about these recordings brings to mind the long drives between East Coast and West, specifically that terrain of wind turbines and grain silos one encounters crossing Iowa. Maybe it sounds cliché, but it feels right. The sparseness of these arrangements brings to mind a landscape equally spare.
Fuller-Smith wrote these songs in Seattle after moving back there from an interlude of a few years in Nashville. Sam would venture to Nashville from the Pacific Northwest several times from 2016-2018 to put this music down with engineer, multi-instrumentalist and friend Rodrigo Avendaño; two sessions of four songs each, followed by two overdub sessions. The duo work fast and don’t question much. This is borne out by the effortless sound of the recordings. Nothing feels fussed over. Every decision made seems inevitable. For me, their work brings to mind the too-brief working relationship of Damien Jurado and Richard Swift; one is the songwriter, the other the sonic architect.
If there is a mountain in these meadows of song it is the trio in the center, beginning with the misty “You Were On My Mind” and its harp-like banjo wanderings. In an album full of perfectly placed production and arrangement touches this triptych is the pinnacle. One of the most sublime moments comes when “I Have to Believe”, a meditation on faith and its manifestation in love, begins with only hushed guitar and voice before being swept up just past the halfway mark by a current of plucked strings and percussion and carried through the instrumental back half of the tune casually hurtling toward a cluster of ambiguous Mellotron flute notes before disappearing completely. Each time this point comes I’m caught by surprise and left to think “how did I get here?” “New Shades” rounds this movement out, balancing shimmering Fender Rhodes with single-note guitar and a minimal tom beat.
There are other musicians on the record, Margo Price’s pedal steel ace Luke Schneider and Lylas’ Kyle Hamlett among them. But most of the accompaniment is handled by Avendaño and Fuller-Smith himself. A result of this is that the tendency to go for a “band feel” is largely absent. Often there’s little accompaniment at all, the songs left to hang vaporous, suspended in air like some of my favorite moments from the late Talk Talk albums. When other instruments are employed they make their appearance with conspicuous inevitability. No notes are wasted here.
Fuller-Smith says these songs are about “trying to capture lost time, feelings of longing, not knowing one's place” as well as “uncertainty and searching and feeling a little lost”. These emotions are felt acutely throughout. And yet this collection of moody ruminations ends with what starts as a whisper before erupting into an explosive declaration of hope. Closer “I Am Here Now” recalls all the best things about the Velvet Underground, as if “Heroin” had been recorded with the refinement of their eponymous album. Its triumphant squalls of feedback leave me with this feeling: sometimes all you can do to escape the gravity of old emotions is to destroy the things that trigger them, with love.
Nathan Golub
Nathan Golub
Nathan Golub is a Durham NC-based musician. Usually found behind a pedal steel as a sideman to a number of NC bands, he occasionally steps out front with finger-picked acoustic ramblings.
Venue Information:
The Pinhook
117 W. Main St.
Durham, NC, 27701
http://thepinhook.com/