Album Review: Derek Webb – ctrl (2012)

I’ve always been in Derek Webb’s court, though I go back and forth on his music. She Must and Shall Go Free made me weep when I first heard it and still does pretty regularly. I’ve had a harder time with his more didactic stuff in recent years, though, partially because I feel like he’s a big fish in a small pond. On Stockholm Syndrome, especially, it seemed like he was reaching for low-hanging fruit.

I was intrigued, though, by the total reset of Feedback and the lower-profile Sola Mi project he did last year, and ctrl totally blew me away. Did not expect this from him. Glad to get to be one of the first to review it.

Webb and producer Josh Moore (who also produced Webb’s 2009 album Stockholm Syndrome) use the same sonic palette for much of ctrl: take one straightforward guitar-and-voice folk-pop tune, add programmed beats and synths, sprinkle in Sacred Harp choral samples. Sometimes the samples are integrated fully into the song, like “Pressing on the Bruise”, where Webb essentially trades verses with the choir over a laid-back groove. Elsewhere they provide sonic texture, elevating the spastic “Attonitos Gloria” to moments of unexpected joy. Still elsewhere full choral verses are added as interludes between songs, as if commenting on what we’ve just heard. Nearly every instance that choir pops up is jarring, and occasionally it comes barreling out of left field at you with the surreal violence of a David Lynch film.

-full review up at RELEVANT Online

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