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the silver sound sessions
June Panic
The Silver Sound Sessions
Super Asbestos

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There's nothing quite like a pleasant surprise. Before hearing Silver Sound Sessions, the only previous experience I'd had with June Panic's work was a cursory listen to his first release, Glory Hole. What I remember about that listening experience hardly made me want to go out and hear more of Panic's work -- the album was a noisy, screechy, atonal mess, verging on completely unlistenable. Add this to the fact that the press sheet accompanying Silver Sound states that "The goal was to accomplish the idea of a silver sound, but the final result, said June, 'could not have been called bronze, much less silver'. Using low quality microphones and digital gear, Panic and co. had hampered their abilities. All parties involved said that the sessions should be shelved." To say that I wasn't expecting much is a pretty big understatement. Imagine my shock when I reluctantly pressed my CD player's "play" button, to be assaulted not by screechy caterwauling, but by the tight, nervous shuffle of "Travel Time" -- which, after a few seconds, acquainted itself very nicely with my ears. Bursts of snazzy horn disrupt the song at just the right intervals, and Panic's Dylanesque voice is mixed low enough to force you to strain slightly to hear what he's going on about.

Every new singer-songwriter with a battered guitar and a raggedy voice is inevitably going to be compared to the venerable Dylan, but Panic's voice really does remind one of the aforementioned music legend, as well as more modern touchstones such as Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum. NMH is actually a decent point of comparison: although Panic's songs are not quite as convoluted and hallucinatory as Mangum's, the two songwriters share a quavery voice, interesting lyrical imagery, and a slightly shambolic, neo-folk-wrapped-around-a-post-punk-core type of sound. Lines like "You always say that life is a way to lay down, and now you love your pity" ("Graveyard Crown") don't necessarily make much linear sense, but Panic's strained, emotional delivery imbues his strange phrases with inherent meaning.

Although I have no idea what Panic and co. had in mind with their desire to "accomplish the idea of a silver sound", the result is quite intriguing. As for the limitations that the artists imposed on themselves with "low quality microphones and digital gear", let's just sat that I probably wouldn't have made an issue of it if they hadn't. This is obviously no sparkling studio gem, but the fidelity of the recording is good enough that it doesn't hamper one's enjoyment of the songs. And if "all parties involved said that (these) sessions should be shelved", I'd really like to hear some recordings that these guys were happy with!

-- Jeremy Schneyer
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