“… here’s the last two years of my life, documented and recorded mostly on a laptop,” announces – or opines – local musician Clarke Sondermann on his Bandcamp page that hosts “The Echo Trail,” his debut release. It’s a statement that creates a number of possible, but very immediate, reactions – from repulsion to curiosity – and too often might lead to a click through to the next artist. But, if you follow that impulse (in this case anyway) you run the risk of missing out on a serious find. Not just a gem in the midst of so much mediocrity in the self-published online music world, Sondermann’s work comes from a focused, tender heart – awash in just as much drama as there is subtle laughter, and almost as much angst-ridden love as there is pure hope.
This collection of thirteen tunes belies Sondermann’s life as a high school senior (he recently graduated from Denver School of the Arts). They sound like stories from a soul that’s done some traveling – on long, internal and external trails.
Stylistically, the songs are mostly simple, ruminations that really conjure the intimacy of a closed bedroom – purposely hidden, and not just to have time and space to compose. At their worst (a place that, mercifully, they seldom reach), they recall a shade of Ben Folds. But at their best, they invoke the melodic intelligence of Stephin Merritt (more Future Bible Heroes than Magnetic Fields – but just a little), the indie crooning of Joshua Novak and the psychedelia of The Flaming Lips – leaning towards the spirit of “Clouds Taste Metallic” and “The Soft Bulletin,” but in a deeply intimate, quiet way. Definitely recommended for headphones, especially walking alone, and preferably after dusk.
…the songs are mostly simple, ruminations that really conjure the intimacy of a closed bedroom – purposely hidden, and not just to have time and space to compose.
Four simple notes begin “Intro,” ushering in the rest disguised as film. “The Art of Falling Apart” starts off with that disconcerting Ben Folds feel – but quickly overcomes the threat with a song that’s got both deep introspection and Nintendo-style melodic goofiness. And that feeling survives most of the record.
It’s interesting that “The Sounds of the World Waking Up” samples a small bit from Donnie Darko – from Donnie’s visit with his shrink where he angrily decries the need for the dead rabbit – his nemesis – to be mourned. The sample crystallizes the feel of the whole record – it feels like we imagine Donnie Darko does when, in the film, he passes through his epiphany, and realizes just what to do, and that everything is going to be just fine, just fine. The feeling is filled with the necessary sacrifice, too (no spoilers – if you haven’t seen Donnie Darko yet).
That’s enough to whet any appetite – take a listen to the record, streaming below, and remember to buy a copy. As befits this traveled soul, Sondermann is off to do some world traveling – likely building more stories. What better way to send him off, in return for a truly remarkable effort from your hometown?