The last I heard from local multi-instrumentalist Rob Voland, he was leading a promising indie-rock band called Transit. Not sure if that group is still together, but judging from Voland's fine solo effort, Springinsfeld, it might not matter anymore.
Voland's new release contains seven downtempo pop songs with lots of experimental trappings. It's hard to believe such a full sound was captured on a just a four-track cassette recorder. Much of the production credit goes to fellow songwriter Ryan Power, who, in addition to contributing drums, organ and keyboards, handled the recording and mixing chores. As I've noted in past reviews, the dude is talented.
So is Voland. His fractured melodies and aching, Neil Young-style electric guitar pushes the singer-songwriter genre to the outer limits. As a vocalist, Voland favors a whispery croon that bears repeat listens. Occasionally, he oversteps his range, but it's hard to fault him with such spacious music upon which to sing.
Opener "Recurring Dream" is built on an opium-funk beat and stabs of wah-wah guitar. The lyrics, which Voland delivers in a breathy falsetto, read like classic stoner poetry. "Smoke swirling round and back / Downdrafts and ice paths / How long will it last? / No telling," he offers. Don't forget to exhale, man.
"Just Been Born" serves up a meditative groove perfect for candlelit amour, or perhaps a short nap. "Can't stop wishing for the open air / The breath that follows / When you go so far away," Voland sings with what sounds like a mouth full of marbles. Call it Codeine Come-Ons for Natural Lovers.
Building from a slow fade-in, "Lights Are Out" keeps the nocturnal mood alive. Those with a low tolerance for slow-moving music might quickly lose interest, however. Too bad, 'cause Voland delivers his finest vocal performance on this cut. A squall of well-placed feedback announces the extended guitar solo, which squiggles along with uncanny grace.
"Strange, Strange Place" is the sole number mixed by Voland, and he performed admirably. The tune features feathery guitar chords interspersed with the occasional keyboard hiccup; each element sounds well placed. The only problem is the vocal performance, which teeters on the melodramatic.
Springinsfeld will likely try the patience of some listeners. But if you like your music on the narcotic side, as I often do, it's just what the doctor ordered. Hear Voland backed by a full band in a performance at 339 Pine St. in Burlington on Saturday, Oct. 28.