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the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Cameron Ember

eclectic reviews and opinions

Cameron Ember

Good things happen . . . to bad people

(self-released, 2005)

Cameron Ember describes her music as "Daniel Johnson meets Mariah Carey," certainly the oddest pairing I've heard in a while. On the Carey tip, it's no surprise that I wish she'd tone down her vocal vibrato, back off the reverb, and lean a little less hard on multi-tracked self-harmony. But she's got a pleasant voice, with a range and timbre not dissimilar to Aimee Mann's. I don't get the Daniel Johnston comparison at all, unless it's a stand-in for harmonic straightforwardness. In contrast with Johnston's directness and naiveté, Ember's lyrics are impressionistic, but a bit heavy handed — I like "Boyfriends can teach you/All about check fraud/It's going to be a great year," but "Sometimes you think that you can handle anything/Like finding shelter in a storm" goes down rough.

Ember borrowed the Red House Painters rhythm section to back her vocals and guitar (which she tends to play with a surprising amount of distortion). It's an apt stylistic match, because the songs are both slow and long — the four on this EP add up to nearly 22 minutes — so it's critical to have players adept at building and releasing tension across many measures. This is not the sort of thing I listen to very much — I love Low and Ida, but I don't care for many of the artists who get compared to them. Usually I like more assertive dynamics, faster tempos, and some vinegar in either the words or the music. So I'm ill-qualified to evaluate the songwriting on this EP. The vocal melodies are pretty but a bit obvious, and there's not enough drama or variation for my taste. It strikes me as a record many people might like better than I do; it was obviously executed with craft and care.

The recording, which Ember made at her home, is well balanced and clear. There's not much variation in the sonic palette, but it's an example of how to get a good mix with presumably limited resources.

You can find samples at www.cameronember.com.

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