Raleigh Moncrief, Watered Lawn

Jason Randall Smith

Raleigh Moncrief, Watered Lawn [Anticon]

There are those who think that they have the new school beat generation figured out. With Watered Lawn, however, producer Raleigh Moncrief just threw a serious curve ball to that entire crowd. Drum machines take a back seat to layered guitars and tender vocals on an album that pulls in folk and alternative rock influences. The beat science remains, but is content with making cameo appearances instead of insisting on being the main character. Watered Lawn acts as a reminder of Moncrief’s time spent playing it low-key and collaborating with the likes of Marnie Stern and Zach Hill. The accumulated experiences are poured into his full-length debut, encased in sun-baked riffs and unstable rhythms as its foundation.

“The Air” forces preconceived notions out the door as a flurry of plucked strings rain down upon Moncrief's voice; off-center thumps pop up like speed bumps with little regard for the rest of the composition's timing. “A Day To Die” is aurally cinematic in the Harmony Korine sense: unquestionably picturesque, but the beauty can’t cover up what lies beneath the surface much longer. “Cast Out For Days” offers the best mix of the album’s elements, featuring acoustic strums, a bittersweet falsetto, drum sequencing with frayed ends, and an elastic wall of sonic abrasion. There’s time set aside for minimalism on “Lament For Morning” as Raleigh cuts up his vocals into slivers, allowing them to serve as the main melody. The mood becomes more intense once the rhythm stumbles into the picture, adding loud kicks and crashes underneath squelching synths.
Watered Lawn isn’t without its head-nodding moments and songs like “Don’t Shoot” are a testament to beat science still playing a part in the equation. Crackling snares and quirky percussion guide the tune down a neck-snapping path while heavenly vocal harmonies melt the heart. “Waiting For My Brothers Here” leans even heavier upon a boom clap blueprint, supplying just the right kick to Moncrief’s folksy tones. As “Mothers” turns up the fuzz guitar and fades into the sunset, it is clear that expectations have been exceeded. If J. Mascis or Lou Barlow were growing up in these times and made friends with members of the Brainfeeder crew, this album could be the end result. Raleigh Moncrief’s full-length debut is a stunning achievement and a beautiful marriage of traditional song structure and present-day beat maker experimentalism.

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