There is so much more to the Friends Of Dean Martinez
than merely a brilliant lyrical line from a Warren Zevon
song. This instrumental band has somehow managed to survive over
a decade in an industry that thrives on songs with words, and
relegates instrumentals to the obscure soundtrack category. Of
course, there have always been exceptions, and the Friends sit
easily amongst the elite, alongside such luminaries as Daniel
Lanois and Ennio Morricone.
Somewhere around the band's third release, two founding members
- Joey Burns and John Convertino - left to form
what has become one of the seminal "indie" bands, Calexico.
The remaining members have persevered despite some strange obstacles
and have changed their sound, turning from the twangy Tejano surf
sounds of the first two records to an almost shoegaze wall of
sound ambience. Lost Horizon comes on the tails of a live
release earlier this year titled Live At Club 2. That record
was stunning, and my re-introduction to the band since losing
track of them over seven years ago. I immediately missed the Southwestern
flavor that Burns' guitar added to the mix, but after a few listens
I discovered that there was more space in the new music. Many
of the conventions of the original band were thrown out the window
along the way in favor of making more distinctly beautiful music,
rather than focusing on creating immediately-catchy tunes
Lost Horizon begins with "Landfall", a track
that sets the mood for the record and establishes what may turn
out to be one of the Friends' best records to date. "Dawn"
really showcases the ability of Bill Elm to coax sounds
from a pedal steel that are not part of the normal player's vocabulary.
The song is wistful and sweet, with a brilliant underpinning of
tension that makes for an amazingly complex sound. "Heart
Of Darkness" is the one distinct departure on Lost Horizon.
This song breaks loose into caterwauling banks of carefully wrought
feedback laden distorted guitar leads and Mike Semple's
guitar picks up a bit of its vintage bite. The drumming of Andrew
Gerfers is so well played that it takes a backseat at most
times to the melody instruments, but he does a remarkable job
of carrying off the work of an entire rhythm section on his own
There is no bass player in this incarnation of the Friends Of
Dean Martinez. His playing is sometimes subtle, but always powerfully
evocative and provides the glue that holds the music together.
If you, like me, had lost track of the Friends after their
initial releases when they seemed to go underground, then do
yourself a favor and pick up this new record
that, like me, you'll find yourself going back and hunting down
the missing pieces of their catalog for your CD collection.
3. Heart Of Darkness
4. Somewhere Over The Waves
5. All In The Golden Afternoon
6. Two Hundred Miles
7. Hidden Out Of Sight
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