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Posted on April 15th, 2015 (9:00 am) by Matt LaBarbera

There’s something about the moon. So much of mankind’s creative output can owe an origin to the lunar disc hanging mutely in the sky. Despite the efforts of some groups to stamp the moon out, it still remains a potent symbol, even after 1969. Next in line of these lunatic artworks is S. Carey’s Supermoon EP. Recorded primarily during the perigee-syzygy of August 2014, his new EP sees him revisiting his past, rewriting old songs under new lunar guises. Taken from All We Grow and Range of Light, as well as one new track and a cover, the songs on Supermoon strip themselves to skeletons and shrink the space around them. Mimicking the moon’s startling intimacy during these astronomical alignments, S. Carey discards all pretense by utilizing bare arrangements, closing the gap between himself and his listener. It’s a well-executed maneuver, but just because it was done well, doesn’t mean it’s particularly interesting. Despite Carey's evident talent as an artist, this EP is not where it shines.

In his previous works, one of Carey’s greatest strengths is his control of ambience, setting the tone and establishing character with gestures that are difficult to pin. With his opener, “Fire-scene,” he shows that even with just a piano and his voice, he is still more than capable of generating an atmosphere. Gone is the gentle guitar from Range of Light, but the plodding piano, left to resonate on every note, calls to mind the spare poignancy of furniture music. The delicate decay of the piano, along with the slight shuffling of his hands and body, invites the listener into the same small room as him, but the beauty there is not comparable to what's outside. It’s a concise and totalizing statement, an aesthetic road map for the bare balladry that defines the rest of the EP.

The original and eponymous track of the release, “Supermoon,” follows the same formula as above with Carey's piano and fragile voice, never loud, but somehow overwhelmed. The soft-spoken, breathy vocals always match their tenor to the accompaniment, turning them, effectively, into another instrument, another tool used to create a private performance. Running along the base of the track and creeping into prominence towards the end is a balanced, droning synth, a recognizable touch from his other work. “In The Stream” features a light chorus of strings, but like the other songs their restrained use keeps the hermetic mood intact. For music recorded in the middle of summer, the atmosphere is sparse and wintry; remixes for a lonely world.

Speaking more to his confidence, Carey’s cover is of Radiohead’s “Bulletproof…I Wish I Was.” It’s always a bit of a risk to cover a song a lot of people like, but Carey goes ahead, dropping away most of the components of the song, relying on his voice, piano, and strings. Fortunately, the original’s style is something like his own, so it’s an easy translation, but not a terribly interesting one. Still, to his credit, Carey’s cover does sound like it belongs on the EP. However, that might also be something of a problem. There's no addition, no improvement to this or any of the other songs on the EP. These alternate versions are neither graceless nor irritating, but there is certainly a paucity that pervades this release, a sense that maybe, in Carey's case, more is more.

Given the quiddities of Supermoon, it would not be crazy to assume that Carey’s goal was to remodel his work into something nearly painfully intimate and to tear away what wasn’t necessary to build something that spoke for itself. To a large extent, he succeeded, but the album only caters to a singular idea, a particular mood. There’s no doubt in Carey’s talent as an arranger or singer, but Supermoon is unfortunately one-note, as well crafted as that note might be. A personal evaluation would depend entirely on how much intimacy and spareness mean to you in a musical composition, but if you ever get tired of Carey’s cool cooing or resounding piano, there is nothing else on here for you. It leads one to wonder if the confidence with which he approaches his music is a result of him being comfortable or, in the worst case, complacent. Stripping down his arrangements seems to have accomplished one thing: revealing that while Carey is a great songwriter, it might be all one song.

Track List:

  1. Fire-scene (alt. version)
  2. We Fall (alt. version)
  3. Supermoon
  4. In The Stream (alt. version)
  5. Neverending Fountain (alt. version)
  6. Bulletproof...I Wish I Was
S. Carey - Supermoon Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

60 / 100
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