One of the more fascinating effects of technological innovation in music has been the ability for bands to work as a duo in the studio and somehow pull off a respectable live show without help from a busload of touring musicians. Countless examples from the past decade and a host of genres immediately come to mind: The White Stripes, Shovels and Rope, The Black Keys, Death from Above 1979. With their second release, I
There’s no need to discuss the group’s backstory at length here – all that information can be found for interested listeners on the band’s website. Suffice it to say that husband and wife Marie Davon and Andrew Heaton are no strangers to performing and their history as longtime musicians in Athens is evident throughout the record. Although Powerkompany is a far stretch from the other projects that the two have been involved in, the band’s latest release is something of a pinnacle. One can only hope that their latest release is something of a prophetic statement that the duo has more songs of this caliber in the queue.
With only Davon and Heaton at the helm, Powerkompany’s sound still manages to be big. By that, I don’t mean that they’re going to be playing arenas later this year (not that such a thing would be totally unjustified). Simply put, the album sounds like more than two people are involved in its production. Sure, studio trickery these days can allow for an infinite number of tracks to be layered on top of one another, but often the guitar strumming on I Am More Than This doesn’t seem to be emanating from the same fingers putting together the masterful programming on the same track.
“Not the Last,” arguably the album’s strongest track, features Davon’s sentimental voice in front of some dreamy electronic sounds à la Washed Out. “You are/You are the other one/the one/the one who left me here” sings Davon on the track’s opening lines and, just like that, they’ve earned your focused attention for the rest of the record.
The title track includes a Mediterranean flavor that might catch some listeners off guard, but a close listen reveals that the pair is quite adept at invoking other sonic traditions without making a mockery of them. Take the mesmerizing string arrangements on the track along with the carefully calculated almost-industrial rhythms and you’ve got something truly innovative. Like most of the other tracks on the album, there’s no appropriate analog out there circulating in the popular consciousness. For once, originality doesn’t feel so strained and deliberate, which is quite a relief in a time marked by many bands trying too damn hard to sound distinct at the expense at quality songwriting.
Davon takes the vast majority of the vocal duties on the record, but Heaton shares some of the labor on “Can’t Wait,” a track that includes some interesting call and response between the two. There are other highlights on the album as well. The anthem-march of the album’s closer “Mermaid Sunlight” works beautifully even with its sparse instrumentation (a mix of analog and digital percussion, for the most part).
So, what are the common denominators that run throughout I Am More Than This? For starters, high quality songs permeate the record. Every one of the album’s ten tracks belong here, each offering a different dimension to the duo’s penchants for ethereal vocal sounds and electronic programming. Moreover, the inventions of Davon and Heaton deserve to be celebrated. Not only do these songs include interesting arrangements that cover a lot of sonic territory, but they demand careful inspection from attentive listeners.
Words: Dan Mistich