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Together Now

Roman Evening
Together Now
(Bitter Stag Records)

Originally started in 1996, Together Now is the work of several years of infrequent recording sessions and artists from many different Bay Area bands. Conceived by vocalist Adam Klein and keyboardist Michael Mullen, the two recruited different members hailing from groups such as Tuxedomoon, Black Lab, and the late great American Music Club (as well as artists who have played with Mark Kozelek and Burt Bacharach). The resulting album is one that has little things in common with several of the aforementioned, as well as moving into areas that mix country, experimental folk, and a touch of just plain rock.

The album opens up with some muddy drums, washed-out organ, and fragile vocals by Klein on "Let's Take It Back." Peaking with some shimmering percussion and multiple vocal layers, it has a slightly off-kilter feel that keeps things interesting, but feels a bit long at almost 7 minutes. "Retreat" follows up nicely, starting out with a rather quiet piano backdrop before building in layers of guitar feedback and subtle percussion. It's also on this track that Klein's vocal style is made even more evident. Mixed fairly high on each track, his slightly falsetto-sounding vocals sound somewhat like Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev, which gives me mixed feelings. On some tracks, the emotive qualities that come through add a great deal to the tracks, but in other cases they simply seem way too high in the mix.

Lest you think that the group only writes melancholy tracks, they prove all that wrong with the middle three tracks on the disc. "Analyst To The Nation" starts out with some queasy sounding keyboards before building up to a nice chorus with trumpet by Glen Swarts, while "Whatever Called You" again uses the trumpet for a lifting effect while the rhythm section clicks nicely and a nearly over-the-top guitar solo wails during the chorus. "Together Now" comes in as one of the best tracks on the entire disc. Over a lush, rainy-day jazz-influenced backdrop, the vocals by Klein feel just right with the undulating instrumentation.

Before closing out with a reprise of the second track, the group drops their nearly 10-minute 3-part epic track in "Comfort Bringers." With a downright upbeat beginning, the track drifts off a bit during the middle section before locking into a solid pop-rock track for the last section. With angular synths buzzing and plenty of other instrumentation filling out the rest of the space, it sounds downright orchestral. While some of the more stark tracks drag out a bit, the tracks where the group layers the instrumentation more definitely stand out. While it may just be his vocal style on the quieter tracks, it also seems like Klein comes into his own much more as a vocalist when he has a more rich backing sound. The information on their website says that it rained every single day they were recording the disc, but it sounds like some rays of sun poked through the clouds at least every once in awhile.

Rating: 6.25