Pinewood “All Things With Symmetry” (Independent, 2020)

Pinewood is songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Sam Kempe whose debut EP ‘All Things With Symmetry’ is the perfect lockdown music. Listening to these four atmospheric folk-rock pieces feels like breaking through dense woods into a brightly lit glade. From Athens, GA, Kempe describes his own route as one of many paths. Having started as a bassist he turned his hand to production. Adding banjo and mandolin among other instruments he layers his folk, rock and bluegrass influences to create a sound of many textures. Lyrically he seeks light by delving deep into his mind to protect against the return of dark.

The Incredible String Band, Fleet Foxes and The Lumineers all come to mind. ‘Riverbank’ starts with looping strings to which Kempe adds light rhythm. This flow gathers momentum around his haunting vocals that thunder into a series of glorious synthesised crescendos.

From flowing water Kempe turns his gaze and reflection upwards. As its title suggests ‘Constellations’ is the sonic equivalent of looking at distant specks of light. The banjo line keeps the feet on the ground while his voice echoes into space.  More dramatic synthesised ebbs and flows appear a characteristic of Kempe as well as a reminder of his originality.

Perhaps these first two meditations explain the confident cascade of ‘Onward’, a multi-dimensional soundscape. A line from the title track “let my mind run free with existential dread” reveals that despite finding light Kempe knows he could plunge back into darkness anytime. The spectral voice and almost halting feel magnify that fragility.

‘All Things with Symmetry’ is a beautiful creation, the musical equivalent of a deep meditative practice. May more be forthcoming very soon.

A meditative soundscape for lockdown
9/10

Author: Lyndon Bolton

Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between

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