February 15, 2011

Review:: Floating Action: Desert Etiquette

Let’s talk sports analogies. If Seth Kauffman were a basketball player, he'd be the underappreciated sixth man that comes off the bench in the fourth quarter to sink the winning basket. He may not be a recognized star just yet, but his skills more than speak for themselves: stick Kauffman with any instrument—sitar, drums, guitar—in almost any genre—soul, reggae, rock, folk—and he'll create something classic, albeit in his own distinctly laid back and loose manner. Playing nearly every instrument under the moniker Floating Action, Kauffman has already recorded one track-for-track classic album and his newest release, Desert Etiquette, shouldn’t be labeled any different.

Desert Etiquette was recorded in a 48-hour period of manic creativity at Kauffman’s home studio in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The intensive process behind the album, however, couldn’t feel further in tone from the music it produced—an overall sound Kauffman recently related to Everybody Taste as a “vast calm darkness.” Filled with the richly decaying sounds of an electric piano, the room-filling resonance and twangy bass of drone instruments, and Kauffman’s singing guitar work, Desert Etiquette is a more nuanced and subtle sequel to 2009’s Floating Action. The slower pacing here gives songs room to breathe and often opens them up for experimentation. The more psychedelic and creative offerings—underwater sounding tremolo-effected vocals in "Ambientador," a chorus of self-harmonizing vocals in "Modern Gunslinger"—are never forced, but rather organic and welcome embellishments to Kauffman’s signature songwriting style. That is the magic of Floating Action—whether Kauffman is singing about the bourgeoisie figure of the French Revolution Maximilien Robespierre or the sunset at Rincon, a surf spot in Southern California—the music is always produced in an effortlessly relatable and timeless fashion. This isn't music that will ignite your eardrums after one listen, but rather a balanced genre-defying exploration that was built to last.

Desert Eitiquette gets its name from an old cup left for centuries at a famous oasis in the Middle East. It’s desert etiquette to leave the cup for the next thirsty traveler—a tale relayed to Kauffman by his sister. It's the perfect background story for Floating Action's music. The album may not be centuries old, but through its hazy vocals and "pipe smoke" come songs that feel magically found—a freshly dusted-off collection of lost treasures left for the next weary traveler. Drink up.

Floating Action - "Please Reveal" (from Desert Etiquette)
Floating Action - "Victim of Trap" (Generationals cover)

Interview: Floating Action's Seth Kauffman

Floating Action

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