Charles, the first and only release (as far as Internet research is concerned) by the Seattle, WA based band, Martha! Mother, is a homespun affair that will fit nicely on the cassette rack somewhere among your copies of Brian Eno, Modest Mouse, and Chicago post-rockers Early Day Miners. The tape sounds like it was recorded over the course of one weeklong hangout in someone’s rented house. And that’s not a bad thing, by any stretch. Most of the songs have a casual, intimate vibe, with spare vocals, violins, and drums floating in and out of the mix throughout the dozen or so tracks. It’s a bit difficult to determine where one song ends and another begins, and I wager the people behind Charles won’t mind that one bit. The whole affair seems to be designed to be your soundtrack to a late night conversation between close friends. It’s the kind of conversation you’re only supposed to have with friends you can trust. When I picture the band playing live, however, it feels natural for them to be outside, on a porch or, heck, maybe even a gazebo. And of course, it’s autumn; someone remembered their scarf. That autumnal sense of loss or just a mind space for building memorials permeates Charles.
“Interlude” kicks off Side Two of the cassette and it’s a good microcosm for the entire thing. First, there’s a distant, scratchy sample or maybe just the sound of a room with the TV left on. Lost vocals, very ethereal, arrive and quickly give way to some gently played strings and splattered drums. With some debt to post-rock, Martha! Mother isn’t afraid of crescendos, musical and emotional. What sets them apart is when they combine it with the intimacy and fuzziness of a 4-track recording. If this all sounds messy, in practice it isn’t because of a heaping dose of restraint. Never do the ingredients of these non-traditionally arranged songs add up to real cacophony. Charles offers some real surprises for those ready to venture away from typical song structures and slick productions. The band is offering the whole thing for free download at: http://silentfarmrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/charles