Maine album reviews: Great Western Plain, Contrapposto, Gunther Brown

great western plain

Great Western Plain — Elastic Smile

When the average length of a song on your album is a little over seven minutes, and you start the whole thing off with a 12-minute Krautrock-meets-Dinosaur Jr jam, clearly, accessibility isn’t the driving motivator for your band. Then again, Great Western Plain’s fourth album, “Elastic Smile,” isn’t inaccessible either; it’s just roomier, sludgier, and, yes, longer. With this album, the two-thirds-Portland one-third-Orono trio of Tim Berrigan, Tony Bitetti and Mike Powers aren’t afraid to let a groove sit, marinate and mature. Where other bands might cut the song off after two or three minutes, GWP lets it grow and evolve into something else, as on the single “Wipers,” or that epic 12-minute opener, “Thom.” That’s not to say that the cheap beer and punk rock aesthetic of their first full-length album, “Mustache Eye Patch,” is missing — that combination of Minutemen-esque low end, itchy post-punk guitar riffs and speak-sung-shouted vocals is very much present. It’s just more patient. It’s dirty, messy rock, recorded in a basement and dragged across the East Coast in a van, that also manages to be literate, mature, self-aware and intentional.

contrapposto albumContrapposto — s/t

Though the five tracks that comprise Portland electronic duo Contrapposto’s first EP have been out in the world for the past year, hearing them all together gives them a context and musical through-line that previously was not there. Combining the vocal whoops and swirls of the captivating Mirabai Iwanko with the busy, lush electronic soundscape created by Jacob Pitcher, the pair’s overall aesthetic brings to mind the iconoclastic music of artists like Bjork, the Knife or Ladytron. There’s something delightfully weird about Iwanko’s musical presence — her vocals swing from a confident, jazzy vibrato to a more experimental, Yoko Ono-esque approach, and her creative, at times loopy lyrics suit her diverse singing styles. Pitcher anchors Iwanko’s soaring voice with warm washes of electronic fuzz (as on “Cousinfriends”), big synth chords and 80s drum fills (“Rabbit Habits”) and dance floor ready beats (the terrific “Rope Grown,” which is just begging for a club remix). Few other bands in Maine marry the strange and the fun in such an engaging way.

gunther brownGunther Brown — Good Nights for Daydreams

From the very first words and chords of “No Use Livin’,” the first song off Gunther Brown’s newest album, “Good Nights for Daydreams,” you can tell that singer and lyricist Pete Dubuc is having a hard time. Or, at least, the guy in his songs is: drunk and alone, reminiscing on failed relationships and tough hearts. It’s a sad sack album, yes, but that’s exactly the charm of it, all presented in a gruff, alt-country-fried roots rock sound, putting them in the same world as fellow Mainers the Mallett Brothers Band, but with a less driving, more contemplative edge. That’s not to say the entire album is a drag; the spirited, mordantly funny kiss-off “Forever” has plenty of fire in its belly, and “Bobby Orr” is a nice piece of New England alt-country, with some welcome male-female harmonies. But then there’s “Time and Again,” a very slow, very sad dirge that could be a Ray Lamontagne b-side, and “Christ of the American Road,” as pretty an alt-country song that’s ever come out of the state. “Good Nights for Daydreams” is a well-produced, well-written album by a roots rock band just hitting their stride.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a UMaine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.