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CD Review: The Man From Ravcon's The Traveler 

Independent; Release date: Aug. 1, 2012

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The Man from Ravcon is Mike Brown, the vocalist, guitarist and founding member of late and lamented Charlotte indie pop-rockers The Ravelers. Lumped in with other '90s Byrds-inspired bands, Brown's old outfit transcended jangle-core, hitting the heartfelt, high, lonesome mark set by True West and The Dream Syndicate. Eventually, The Ravelers folded up the tent, playing their last gig at the Visulite Theatre in 2004.

Nowadays, Brown crafts cinematic instrumentals that nod to surf, prog rock and cult composers. Eschewing vocals and pop song structures, The Man from Ravcon's five-release discography is still a natural progression from Brown's atmospheric work with The Ravelers. On The Traveler, he pares down his influences, leaving John Carpenter, Blacksploitation and Italo-Horror-Meisters Goblin by the wayside, opting for a moody grove that turns proggy around the edges. At times, Brown attains a shimmering, dusty feel that recalls ex-Savage Republic front-man Bruce Licher's instrumental project Scenic.

Structured as a retro jet-setting trip, The Traveler continues Brown's smoothly integrated genre-jumping. "Speakeasy" is smoky noir from a David Lynch roadhouse. "The Station" is ectoplasmic Lee Hazlewood country that conjures heat rising from a desert road. And "Escape" is pristine, road-ready '60s pop with a dissonant hint of jazz-rock. Think a vintage Glen Campbell backing track crossed with Lizard-era King Crimson.

It's to Brown's credit that he cuts close to the affectionate, retooled retro-rock of moonlighting No-wavers The Raybeats, and avoids the airless pastiche of Danger Mouse's overblown spaghetti project Rome. But The Traveler is no mere mash-up of surfin' spaghetti spies. Instead, Brown has subsumed and transformed his influences, managing to be both nostalgic and completely contemporary. It is his most organic and integrated release to date.

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