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Pocketful - 2009 - "Ambiguous Signs"

(29:22, Ovanbeck Records)


****+
                 
TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Voices 6:29 	
2.  A Hint of What Is Missing 5:18 	
3.  Speak 5:09 	
4.  Wasting My Time 5:15 	
5.  When the Leaves Fell From the Trees 4:30 	
6.  Wrong 2:41

LINEUP:

Johan Engstrom  guitars; keyboards, samples 
Jerker Rellmark  vocals; keyboards; trumpet 
Therese Oresten  vocals 
Jan Rellmark  trumpet  

Prolusion. The Swedish act POCKETFUL, a trio consisting of the musicians Johan Engstrom and Jerker Rellmark alongside lyricist Joakim Gralen as permanent members, was born when a previous band these artists were members of, Masque, folded. Their full length debut album "Sparkling" was issued by Musea Records in 2005, and since then the band has made two EPs released by the Swedish label Ovanbeck Records. "Ambigious Signs" is the second of those EPs.

Analysis. I'll start this review by offering up a conclusion of sorts: This is a production that first and foremost seems to have been made with a mainstream audience in mind. Pop rather than rock music is the name of the game, or perhaps mellow rock is a better expression for the contents of this EP. With that said, this is also a production that may appeal to those who rarely finds pop music or even mainstream oriented escapades enjoyable, as there is a bit more going on in these songs than what you'd find in most radio fodder made these days. The opening tune Voices is the odd one out here though. It is similar to the other compositions in most aspects, but the addition of dominating disco-tinged elements results in this being a track mostly of interest to a generic mainstream-oriented crowd. The other 5 songs on this release will probably have a more widespread appeal. The least enjoyable aspects of these compositions are in the mixing and production departments where the band opts for a slick sound, dampening the impact of the individual instruments, with vocals and the main melody highlighted. A choice that makes the songs radio-friendly and quite universally appealing I presume, but that may alienate purveyors of more complex musical endeavors. There are a few complexities to be found here though. Acoustic and "clean" sounding electric guitars are the dominating instruments, with dual or triple layers a common feature throughout. The acoustic guitar usually dominates the proceedings, while the electric one serves up dampened or fragmented textures adding a fine array of details to the explorations. Carefully inserted brief or fragmented keyboard layers, at times with strong symphonic leanings, are utilized to great effect in the back of the mix, with the purpose of partially strengthening the dominating melody and partially to add further details to the segment where it is used. On a couple of tracks a trumpet is used as a mood enhancer, which also adds some variation to this album as a whole. Still, even if the instruments do serve up a more detailed and somewhat more elaborate landscape than usual on this production, the vocals are given a lot of room in these tunes and they do dominate proceedings in the non-instrumental parts. These elements are encapsulated in mostly slow-moving explorations, distinct melodies and a highly melancholic atmosphere dominating the proceedings through and through. The style is one I name timeless myself, one that developed in the late 80s or early '90s if my memory serves me right. As for specific artist comparisons, names do escape me, but I know I've encountered many artists pursuing a similar sound in the past, albeit few of them doing it as elaborately as the Swedish act Pocketful does.

Conclusion. Pocketful's musical territory is first and foremost residing within the mainstream department, melodic, radio-friendly and with a broad general appeal. Their compositions are more detailed and elaborate than most artists in this field of music however, and although not recommended as such to a progressive rock audience I would suspect many within this crowd might find this album interesting, despite it's strong commercial leanings and lack of truly adventurous escapades.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 17, 2009
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Pocketful
Ovanbeck Records


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