Review Summary: Satisfying, but maybe The Branches' arms aren't long enough to reach out like they should.
Anyone can rifle through a pile of artists, sift out what they like and dislike, then move on. Casual listeners, adventurous at heart, tend to do this the most, picking up more and leaving more in the dust. Even artists they thought were good could be out of the picture after a month or 2, simply because there’s more to see and little reason to stick around. I get that, to a certain degree. But like friends, it’s good to cultivate relationships and dig deeper past the surface of things. After all, aren’t everyone’s favorite albums the ones they harpooned the deepest with their attention?
In the case of the album in question, Long Arm’s The Branches
, the pile of artists belongs to hip-hop and electronic, more specifically those inspired by the likes of Flying Lotus
and Boards of Canada
Initially, Long Arm sounds like your run-of-the-mill Flying Lotus wannabe. You’ll notice this on the first 2 tracks of The Branches
, “Power of Rain” and “The Waterfall Inside Me”, which gives the album a pretty lame introduction. Once you reach track 3, “Double Bass In Love”, Long Arm’s spin on the generic formula and personal touches begin to reveal themselves. The mellow introduction kicks it off, where laid-back pianos and trumpets begin to soar above the slow, jazzy hip-hop beats, at which point you can tell The Branches
is going to be a bit more elegant from here on out.
In the vein of Boards of Canada, Branches
borrows mostly from their nostalgic ambiance. Unlike Boards, and despite the album artwork and title, the underlying motif is less organic and more oriented to the big city and urban life. The jazz influence is pretty heavy. With "After 4am", there's a sound that delivers Capone-era gangster charisma, and several tracks use trumpets and horns almost with a swing influence to them. So the nostalgia is still there, its just less generalized and seems to nod to a more specific time gone by. It's all part of what makes Branches
a bit refreshing from your dime-a-dozen electronic acts.
Everything else is still there though, like the skittering beats, brief voice samples and daydreamy aesthetic. I wouldn’t base this record off of first impressions, as there’s certainly more than it first seems, but there still may not be enough here to distinguish the record for some listeners. Once the ball is rolling, the record delivers on most accounts, save for the occasion when a song slips back into generic tongues. In the end, Long Arm’s debut may not garner a cult following but it’s completely likeable and worth coming back to. Casual listeners, like said above, might let this slip under their radar, but those who appreciate subtle changes to a common sound will find that Branches
has rewards for those who dig a bit deeper.