The Miami based duo Raker was formed in 2014 by guitarist Mike Sarasti and bassist Andy Rodriguez and their latest release, “Gospel”, abides by the far-reaching musical vision defining their work up to this point. Sarasti doubles as vocalist, but the duo share songwriting duties and have the rare chemistry and sympathetic take on music that allows them to perform cohesive tracks mutually reflective of their artistic goals. The song is very much in the popular synth pop mode, but anyone believing this is a form resistant to substantive statements will have such naysaying quickly squelched by the intelligence and genuine melodic value this piece exhibits from its first notes onward. It is well produced with each of its respective instruments seamlessly blending into one another without any of the disjointed hiccups and associated bumps that sometimes come with the genre. “Gospel”, likewise, never pushes the envelope with its running time and seems tailored in such a way that the duo knew exactly what they hoped to accomplish upon entering the studio.
The interplay of guitar and bass opening the song will immediately grab your attention and the intensity rises until Sarasti’s smooth voice enters the mix. “Gospel” has a percolating backbeat that occupies a nice pocket in the music without ever cluttering the composition too much and the lyrical clarity reveals both men to be top notch writers. The melodic directness of the track is another key quality that ensures this will get more than a fair hearing by fans of he genre, but they are clearly capable of breaking out of any pigeonhole others may attempt to lodge them in. Few songs come across with such immediate cross over value. It takes a number of interesting turns along the way that never announce themselves with chest thumping bravado. Instead, this is the sort of song accomplishing much with just the right amount of urgency and finesse.
Sarast, in particular, distinguishes himself as a powerful singer with range to burn and a tremendous gift for modulating his voice. There’s exhilarating emotional peaks in this song that nicely correspond with the arrangement and moments when he shows the good sense to rein his emotion in and play some of the song’s lines for particularly effective dramatic effect. His phrasing has an appealing breathiness as well that gives the song an added dramatic push, but he never overdoes this and using just the right amount of the tactic helps contribute to the song’s overall merit. Raker are a duo who don’t need a full band behind them, eschew the path of least resistance, and serve up quality pop music with something truly meaningful to say. This is personal music for people who crave a touch of the personal in their art and even listeners who aren’t fans of the genre will find much to recommend about this performance. “Gospel” is a sure hit on radio, live, and in the clubs.