Technology has flattened the proverbial playing field when it comes to the quality of recordings produced at home versus the big recording studio. Much to the dismay of the music industry, this has opened up the market to acts that would have otherwise — and often, rightfully so — never been afforded the opportunity to release their work. Marco Mahler’s latest record, Laptop Campfire Speed, is one that might not have existed a decade ago.
And that would have been a damn shame. As with Mahler’s previous effort, 2007’s Design in Quick Rotation, he manages to blend the seemingly disparate worlds of folk and electronica into an accessible bit of indie pop. Infuriatingly complex as it is simply put, the music is best heard in an open room and without focusing on the individual elements.
“The Trees Have Fallen and the Birds Are Ripe” is as confounding as it is entertaining, its driving beat and xylophone melodies sticking to your brain like cotton candy to fingers on a warm day. Along with “Beautiful Monsters,” “Jump This Fan,” and “195,” Mahler crafts intelligent (albeit occasionally confusing) pop music out of a handful of acoustic guitars and synthesizers.
When Mahler turns the tempo down he exposes himself, turning up the microphone and allowing his thoughts free rein. Here he has a Leonard Cohen quality to his voice, along with the same intensely personal delivery. The recordings are exposed — warts and all, to beautiful results. “James Alley Blues,” “Sample of a Sample” and “Cell Phone Antenna Trophy” are lusciously instrumented, the former resounding with a touch of the blues mentioned in the title.
Just about anyone with a laptop, some software and a microphone can churn out a full length CD, and it’s difficult to know where to stop and listen. So pull up a chair to the Laptop Campfire and try to keep up, because there might just be a quiz at the end. It isn’t perfect, but it is a record that certainly deserves a listen.
(Marco Mahler 2010)