Just-dropped, Flickering Light is the second full-length album from Benjamin Cartel, the Cartel portion of the renowned duo Kaiser Cartel. Co-produced by Cartel and Mike Cohen, the new album features Benjamin Cartel on vocals, guitar and drums; Mike Cohen on guitar; and Kieren Mulvaney on bass.
Cartels sound merges a panorama of stylistic influences, including rock, psych folk, dream rock and even a bit of prog rock weaving through some of the tunes. Its a prismatic sound with shimmering patience and musical wisdom, as if an imperturbable ambiance decided to enfold you.
Flickering Light encompasses ten tracks. Starlight provides a dreamy tantalizing tint of sonic colors riding a psych-pop melody. Cartels voice is smooth as cream, drifting in sparkling waves, like clouds floating by. Coast Town blends alt rock with psychedelic country rock flavors into an emerging wash of sound thats simultaneously quixotic and a little dangerous.
The Jungle Eats Everything exudes a Beatles-esque sensibility on a psych rock melody. A lustrous, wistful guitar gives the tune a potent opalescent sonority. Save That Number delivers a bluesy alt rock melody reminiscent of the Kinks, only with jangly Byrds-like guitars and a sensuous bassline. Summerflame features wonderful jangly guitars and a cool stylish SoCal soft rock melody. Cartels voice is soft and warm and tender. The jangly guitar solo is yummy.
Sweet Ride exudes psychedelic folk rock aromas ensconced in tropical fragrant tones. Tica provides a pop-flavored folk melody, gentle gleaming colors and Cartels delicately understated vocals. Its a beautiful love song. Down Now presents kaleidoscopic jangling guitars riding beneath Cartel rasping but sublime vocals, like creamy-smooth peanut butter with bits of chocolate added for crunchy sweetness.
The music video for Down Now, directed and produced by Cartel and Matt Clements, is shot in washed out colors, as if with a vintage 8mm movie camera. The musicians arrive outside a building, unpack their instruments and carry them up flights of stairs to the roof, where they play Down Now. When the camera pulls back, the density of rooftops is overwhelming; just as the optics are established, the camera zooms to close-ups, providing a feeling of vertiginous dislocation.
Im Not The Man You Think I Am is redolent of the Beatles in tone and inflection. The glistening jangly guitar injects the tune with psychedelic blushes that ramp up the songs structural flow. The title track rides a pulsing, persistent rock melody. A dirty screaming guitar imbues the tune with a compact energy thats contagious and effective. The freight train rhythm puffs with glossy, radiant dynamics.
Flickering Light is marvelous. The melodic sheens glow with alluring harmonics, the rhythmic pulses provide magnetic energy and Cartels polished voice provides exquisite refined tones. Flickering Light coruscates with lustrous beauty.
Kris Gruen writes songs about grownup life infused with a mystic wonder, softening the worlds sharp edges like a glass of exceptionally fine bourbon. Kris grew up steeped in classic records. His Americana influenced new folk is grounded in the tradition of great narrative songwriters like Cat Stevens and Paul Simon and yet Kriss voice is strikingly current. A New York City native whos put down roots in Vermont, Kris effortlessly blends sagacious wit and emotional depth.
The new album Coast & Refuge is an album both about and created by partnerships where the sonic and thematic threads feel constant, equally at home in the old townships of Vermont where the new folk-artist lives, as it is in the new frontiers of Scandinavia, and the California coastline where much of it was written. The songs retain folk roots, but bring a contemporary urgency and a big sound. The result draws comparisons to Matthew Perryman Jones, Pete Yorn, Elbow, Griffin House, Ryan Adams, and Peter Bjorn and John; in fact, the latters Peter Morén appears on the album as vocalist and co-writer of one of the first singles Every Day and Night Now.
Over a four year period Kris worked with LA writer/producers Brad Gordon (Vance Joy, Dan Wilson, The Weepies,) and Justin Gray (Dirty Heads, James Bay & John Legend), Ramin Sakurai (Supreme beings of Leisure), Finnish singer-songwriter Peppina, and LA artist AM. During a seven country European tour in 2015, while supporting Jesse Malin, Kris was led to Stockholm to work with Peter Morén. Gruen also collaborated with filmmaker Melissa Miller-Costanzo on the song Coming Down Around Me for her feature film All These Small Moments starring Molly Ringwald and Jemima Kirke, which premiered at The Tribeca Film Festival this past April. Longtime producer Charles Newman (The Magnetic Fields, The Bones of J.R. Jones) produced the track in his Brooklyn based Cottage Sounds studio, as well as The Morén duet and the album closer, 2008, a beautifully nostalgic ballad co-written with Los Angeles based artists Jim and Sam.
Kris has shared the stage with the likes of The Avett Brothers, Anais Mitchell, Billy Joe Armstrong, and Sean Lennon, and recently supported Alejandro Escovedo on the east coast and just returned from dates in Sweden at the Live at Heart Festival, as well as supporting Jesse Malin and Craig Finn (The Hold Steady) on a few shows in the UK.