With his full-length debut, Sacramento producer-singer Raleigh Moncrief steps into the limelight. Operating behind the scenes for years—as a frequent collaborator with Zach Hill, an engineer & co-producer to Dirty Projectors on their critically acclaimed Bitte Orca LP, and also as an axe-slinger in Marnie Stern's touring unit—Moncrief here plies his diverse skill set to establishing his own sound: homespun electronic soul infused with folksy intimacy and searching psychedelia.
Watered Lawn offers a beautifully precarious balance of light and dark, pitting flurries of West African guitar against synth-derived buzz and bluster, and wedding warm West Coast beat experimentalism to Moncrief's brokenhearted falsetto. Album-opener "The Air" immediately transports the listener into Moncrief's world. Melodies become rhythms that bump together, then scatter. Cascades of picked notes fall onto a quaking, bass-addled foundation. His voice gushes over it all, then takes a minor-key dive. From a stew of warbling low end, disjointed drums and shimmering keys, "Cast Out for Days," becomes darkly throbbing R&B, while the mantra-like "Time Passed By" sounds like a Panda Bear piece submerged in a pool of acetone. In contrast, "Mothers" is strikingly bare—a grunge-caked crawler that finds its author strumming and singing with little accompaniment. "Lament for Morning" proves that Moncrief is just as capable of emoting without words. The melancholy head-knocker seems to reimagine Laurie Anderson for the Low End Theory set, while the spacious instrumental "In the Grass" is as soulful as anything on Watered Lawn. Still, there's something about hearing Moncrief coo, "What the fuck am I to do?", on the roiling "A Day to Die" that cuts to the heart of the personal turbulence that birthed the record, and the search for respite that makes these eleven songs so cathartic. The "lonesome dread" sung about on "Don’t Shoot" seems sublimated by those brightly spiraling guitar figures, and upbeat track "Waiting for My Brother" is all comedown—the calm after the storm.
Whether Moncrief will remain in that peaceful space remains to be seen, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a richer and more rewarding place than Watered Lawn to sit and sink in until the next one arrives.
released October 25, 2011
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