Remi Russin, 'Math for Poets' | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Remi Russin, 'Math for Poets'

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Remi Russin, Math for Poets - COURTESY
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  • Remi Russin, Math for Poets

(self-released, digital)

My grandfather, Henry, was not an overly musical person, at least not in my company. So I only really have one memory of talking with him about music. I was a grown man, and he was in his twilight years, and I was driving him to my parents' house. Disintegration by the Cure was playing on my car stereo, and he wrinkled his nose as if I'd farted. "That's not driving music, Chris," he said.

A stern but clever man, Henry was wrong on this one. The Cure is excellent driving music. Is it weird that this memory came to me while listening to the new Remi Russin EP, Math for Poets? Not really. For one, the six-track collection leans heavily into new-wave territory, with washed-out guitars and trancelike beats (which makes it an ideal driving record, Henry).

Also, Russin actually name-checks the Cure, along with others such as Daniel Johnston and Russin's own Community Garden bandmate Alex Raine, as specific inspirations for the EP. Burlington-based Russin, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, lists a collection of tunes on their Bandcamp page as a sort of road map to their own music.

Russin plays bass with Community Garden, but the full range of their talents is on display with Math for Poets. Opening track "What Even Is This?" has an in-the-pocket, college-rock-radio vibe that sets up the EP's tone perfectly. Over a layer of soft synths and a driving beat courtesy of another Community Garden bandmate, Evan Raine, the guitars chime in brightly in the darkness. "I've been away / I've been disengaging / I've been fading," Russin sings in a distant, high timbre.

"I'm Trying" follows, and though it occupies the same sort of space as the opener, the two tracks don't bleed together — a quality that can plague records with shoe-gaze DNA. Russin's songwriting has a lot of character, which saves these songs from the fate of becoming background music. Clever little melodies hide throughout, and interesting guitar figures and keyboard swells color the EP in unexpected ways.

Math for Poets hits its high point with "I Gave Myself a Headache," a Wild Nothing-like piece of moody excellence. Russin rides a triumphant chord progression that's unexpected: Laying such an energetic element behind waves of reverb and ghostly vocals is like a musical misnomer. Like the rest of the EP, all the little touches form a background aggregate that matches Russin's keen sense of melody. The result is a creation that is wholly accessible yet still sonically adventurous.

On their Bandcamp page, Russin labels the EP "a naive study in home recording and writing music people might actually want to hear." Both claims are slightly self-deprecating. For a home recording, the songs have a bright tonal quality and are clearly crafted by a talented musician. Engineering by Steven Yardley of the Pyros, and EP mixing by Dan Rome at Future Fields, elevate it above DIY status.

In addition, Russin's ability to create a sonic template that is identifiable both as their sound and as a love letter to the indie-rock genre helps Math for Poets stand out. Download it at remirussin.bandcamp.com. And don't be afraid to play it for a nice drive.