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Universary
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  • Conceived as an exploration of "songs and drones," Universary integrates David First's experimental sensibilities into accessible structures. Each track comes packed with hooks, licks, coherent melodies, and clear chord changes, yet in the details of his arrangement First rejects the obvious and draws instead from his downtown legacy. His technique is obvious on "When the Blue Sky Divides," a catchy medium-tempo tune that's dressed up with minimalist saxophone figures and a psychedelic, "I Am the Walrus"-style cello line, both of which slowly swell and overwhelm the mix during the long exit vamp. As a singer, First underplays in the manner of Andy Partridge, with a similar jazzy bounce; his lyrics are comparable as well, in their intelligence and elusive imagery. On the instrumental side, he opts for density: It's easy to imagine many of these songs working just fine without the industrial drone that clogs up their midrange; its removal might expose the interesting sitar fills, electronic percussion, organ figures, and other details of "The Latter" more effectively, or give more room to his musings on the darkness of modern life in "Enough." In fact, the most intriguing moments on Universary occur where space allows a solitary electronic beep, as one might hear on a heart monitor, to assume a metaphorical significance in the first track and in the last moments of "Another Passenger." There is strength in silence, but there is also much to admire in those who take risks, which is what Universary and David First are all about. ~ Robert L. Doerschuk
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