THE GATEKEEPERS – The Gatekeepers

Think Like A Key 2022

The Gatekeepers

Stored within a spellbinding story, sour-scented cynicism and sweet sarcasm may struggle to snatch a compelling tune yet mesmerize the listener anyway.

Artistic struggle is a necessary part of creative process, artists’ struggle to let their opuses out into the open is not, and tastemakers imposing restrictions and setting obstacles in creators’ way are but a plague: it’s a simple truth composer and filmmaker Alex Wroten knows well enough to have turned into a music album. Still, focusing on the fight one may seem to be bound to endure on such a route, the American multi-instrumentalist not only masterminded the platter’s concept and implemented his ideas via the prism of shoegaze – most perfect method of reflecting an inner affray that ruins peace of mind – yet also took those art-locusts to the fore to shine a light on nefarious shenanigans the titular behind-the-scenesters never perceive as sins.

There are many guests here helping him shed a gleam of hope into this shadowy, dystopian space spanning from the fantasy-infected “I Like The Strange Things” to fatalism-infested, if sweet, “I Like The Normal Things” with “I Think I Like The Strange Things?” – Elaine Di Falco and Renaldo M’s doubt-ridden duo – placed between the two extremes, so if the pseudo-discordant, piano-laden gloom of “Butterflies” feels too solemn for a record-opener, despite the presence of flute, the closer to the histrionic worry of “A Compromising Direction” the pieces get the brighter they sound. However, even dark vaudevillian niches where villains lurk come across as numbers of vast entertaining value, various voices and players pitching poignant lines, as the likes of “A Promising Direction” – which finds Molly Harvey’s vocals wrapped in Robert Webb’s virtual orchestra and punctured with Wroten’s bass – and “Who Are The Gatekeepers?” delivered by CHEER-ACCIDENT show. And though THE RESIDENTS’ strings-drenched choir on “The Patron” can be a cinematic scene-stealer, Shawn Phillips‘ dulcet tones on the violin-weaving “The Professional” fit the fantastic tune much more impressively, especially on the ballad’s tabla-flaunting, funny remix added here alongside other parts-shuffling bonus tracks.

So while “The Pundit” dwells on Deborah Perry’s chamberesque trills, the groovy “The Algorithm” is rendered artificial-life-affirming through Amy Denio’s chirp and sax, before R. Stevie Moore’s sarcastic narration and Duncan Mackay’s jovial ivories paint the jazzy “All The Way To The Bank” in psychedelic colors. Is there a better approach to crashing gates and embracing artistic freedom than this sort of stylistic mix? Might be – but, given certain causticity, what Alex Wroten’s offering should enlighten and inspire any struggling auteur.


December 21, 2022

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