When last we heard from Solvents, they were still in group mode, writing and touring as a band and, especially on their last album forgive yr. blood, cranking up the volume on their odes to the stumbling joys and miseries of life on Earth. But even as they reveled in the spirit of playing loud, songwriter/guitarist Jarrod Bramson and his chief musical collaborator (and wife) violinist Emily Madden were left unsatisfied.
"We were trying to force our songs into being 'rock,'" says Bramson, "but they just aren't meant to be played that way. In the wash of loudness, we were losing what I think are the two most important aspects of the music: being able to hear the lyrics and the melodies of the violin."
So while Solvents are now back to the core duo of Bramson and Madden, the music found on the band's new album Ghetto Moon is as powerful as ever. Left bare, the emotion is now free to blaze out of Bramson's voice and lyrics, and Madden's ardent violin work is given the spotlight it so richly deserves.
What is especially impressive about what Solvents achieves on this new album is that they recorded almost the entire thing in a one day session in the Anacortes studio run by Karl Blau (Laura Veirs, Mount Eerie, Earth). "90% of was done live and most of it was first takes," remembers Bramson. They augmented the recordings with some light percussion and backup vocals later, but for the most part Ghetto Moon feels perfectly stripped down, a stark contrast to the world of overstuffed pop.
Too, the album grapples with the challenges of growing up, exploring moments of heartbreak and a longing to be free of all the responsibilities that come with adulthood. That's not to say Bramson and Madden wallow in this, mind you. Rather, they approach every song with an almost journalistic objectivity, respecting these emotions while performing them with the knowledge that things are much better in the here and now.
Of course, much of that spirit exudes from the loving relationship that is built into the core of Solvents. "It means the world to us," says Bramson of writing and performing with his wife. "It's such a great feeling to create sounds and songs together. We both know how lucky we are to have found each other. The music is such a huge bond in our relationship." And when it results in an album as stirring and unforgettable as Ghetto Moon, we should be ever grateful that they are inviting us to share that connection with them.