Garment District: Flowers Telegraphed To All Parts Of The World  LP   (HHBTM Records)

Release date: September 22, 2023

Garment District - Flowers Telegraphed To All Parts Of The World LP

Bio: On their second full-length LP, The Garment District delivers a Kunstkabinett of sound reminiscent of the Manhattan neighborhood (and others around the globe, both existing and shuttered) with which they share a name. Just as one might wander through a Garment District shop entranced by a staggering display of fabric from seemingly every era and locale, surrounded by rows of buttons, threads and trimmings, listeners will be equally entranced by the hypnotic array of textured sounds on "Flowers Telegraphed to All Parts of the World."

The album was recorded in a friend's home studio nestled in the labyrinthian hills of Western Pennsylvania during the time warp surrounding the pandemic. For composer and arranger Jennifer Baron (who plays numerous instruments on the album), settling in at David Klug's studio atop Pittsburgh's Mount Washington allowed her to stretch and challenge herself, creating expansive arrangements. In another lifetime, just miles away within nearby hills and hamlets, Jennifer's great-grandfather arrived from Zagreb, forming a family band, a tamburitza orchestra featuring her grandfather, great-aunt and great-uncles, who performed in Monongahela Valley steel towns. Jennifer's work with her cousin Lucy Blehar, who supplies lead vocals, continues this family music-making heritage.

Along with guitar, bass and drums, listeners will encounter a full suite of strings, horns, a variety of percussion, and finely woven keyboards and vocals. Some parts were improvised on-site, while others evolved at home, highlighting Jennifer's collection of analog keyboards before being translated into final recordings. Having the opportunity to experiment with equipment borrowed from friends, like a rare 1970s Roland Paraphonic 505 and a 1960s UMI Buzz Tone Volume Expander, shaped the exploratory process of crafting dimensional melodies and instrumentation. The result is a gilded tapestry of pop music history that is both panoramic and idiosyncratic.

With nine distinct songs clocking in at 45 minutes, the album invites you to sing, dance, be transported or reflect. "Left on Coast," "A Street Called Finland," and "The Starfish Song" have a radio-friendly appeal that will draw in new listeners. You will find yourself humming these tunes long after you've stopped playing the record. Some may provide the audio to your dreams. But catchy as they are, the songs are not simple: they veer, they loop and they ruminate. At moments, the music feels mysterious and even clairvoyant, like it is channeling the spirits of a distant, secret past.

It should not come as a surprise to behold such intricate beauty coming from the hands of Jennifer Baron, who has deep roots in independent music, including being a founding member of The Ladybug Transistor (Merge Records), and having worked with English musician Sonic Boom (Spacemen 3, Spectrum) and Jowe Head (Swell Maps, Television Personalities). The Garment District brings Baron’s extended musical circle to the fore by featuring Gary Olson (The Ladybug Transistor), Kyle Forester (Crystal Stilts), Shivika Asthana (Papas Fritas) and her cousin Lucy Blehar (vocals). Adding to the sonic depth are contributions from Jennifer's close collective of musicians, including Dan Koshute, Corry Drake, Sean Finn and Alex Korshin. But while listeners may wonder exactly who plays and who sings which part at any given moment, they will never forget that they are listening to The Garment District. The sound is unique, and for all its complexity, the music is never fussy or pretentious. Often, it's whimsical, idiosyncratic and imaginative. An instrument or lyric will flirt for your attention only to strut away in an unexpected direction, but without being rude about it. Not a moment is wasted, however; the album is cohesive from the first second to the last.

There's an archival pleasure to be found in the music of The Garment District, which makes sense if you consider Baron's background in museum education, independent crafts and photography. Many songs‚ and sounds within these songs, pay homage to the past: from the 1960s, listeners will detect the fingerprint of fuzzed-out psychedelia, orchestrated melodies and carnivalesque film soundtracks, most notably in the inspired cover of "Following Me" by The Human Expression, which replaces the 1967 male vocal with a female voice, expands the arrangement and adds a Girls in the Garage sensibility. From the 1970s, there are traces of funk and disco and Crazy Horse and Ian Curtis; from the 1980s, New Wave and synth-pop, along with high, floating bass lines, hip-hop beats, experimental passages and guitar crescendos. Somewhere there is a whistle and somewhere else there is spoken word. Yet despite being infused with the past, the music feels contemporary, even forward-looking. The record is a kaleidoscope of inspiration, which is a gift in these uncertain times.

RIYL: Free Design, Os Mutantes, Broadcast, Library Music

"There’s not a lot of music I can think of that sounds like The Garment District. Check that: there’s actually quite a bit of music that sounds like parts of what The Garment District does, but I cannot think of anyone who puts it all together, and steers it down such weird paths, like Jennifer Baron. Her patient concoctions have definite rock and pop leanings, but everything inside is skewed, tilted and curved, all pointed in directions that it feels like no one else would see or shoot for."

-- Marc Masters, The Out Door