Modern Remains is a nine-song collaboration effort that combines the musical minds of bands Brookhaven and Scatter Swept, a pair of Oakland acts. One hears elements of shoegaze music running throughout this effort, as well as a few other attractive alternative rock inspirations. It’s a little bit retro cool, yet still contemporary, never dated sounding.
Sonny James represents Brookhaven, and plays guitar and synths here, while Scatter Swept’s Ryohei Hinokuma plays bass and guitar, Matt Holt also plays bass and guitar, while Patricia Kavanaugh is the drummer, another guitarist and the project’s sometime vocalist.
The album begins wonderfully with “Sawtell.” The track features a moody melody, which is reminiscent of The Cure, back when that British group created extended, manic depressive rock & roll epics. Beat-wise, it’s a little faster than those Cure masterpieces, though. The song’s collective electric guitar strumming also gives it a Velvet Underground-y drone feel.
“Already Moving Away” is a track where Kavanaugh sings lead vocal. It’s one of the release’s quieter moments, with a slightly jazzy instrumental section that also incorporates elements of sunshine rock. Kavanaugh sings with a wispy, ethereal vocal tone. Rather than lead the band, demanding the spotlight, Kavanaugh’s voice melts in with it, inserting one more sonic element and not too distinctly standing out. When vocals are included, Brookhaven / Scatter Swept’s collaboration sounds a bit like The Church (albeit, with female singing, rather than male).
“Be A Certain Number” separates itself from the pack with a staccato electric guitar riff. This clipped musical part sounds a little like something from the Orient. There’s also a menacing overall quality to this piece, and one that may remind you of adventurous spy movie soundtracks. In some cases, though, the titles don’t exactly match the sounds. For instance, a song name like “Path In the Dark” reads Goth-y, at least on the surface. However, the actual recording is beatific and layers guitars – to quote a song from an old Disney film – “in the most delightful way.” Similarly, “No Focus” is a piece, which (surprise, surprise!) is a focused, minimalist (at least relatively minimalist) recording.
“Centerform” begins with a riff that sounds straight out of Nirvana’s Nevermind or In Utero. It’s as subversive as it its quiet. It begins with sparse playing, but like a lot of other recordings from this album, builds layer by layer and blooms into something quite lovely.
One must wonder what “I Write For No One” is about. Its title could refer to the separation between lovers. Then again, it might be a commentary on the sometimes-thankless job of creating music in our topsy-turvy music business world. Could this be the act’s “Eleanor Rigby” moment?
Album closer, “Until I Learn Your Name Again” once again sonically references Nirvana. It’s a simple, quiet and dark reflection. Its lead guitar lines also point back to Robert Smith’s style with The Cure. Although it begins quietly, it builds to something bolder and louder, eventually. It also includes more of Kavanaugh’s singing.
There a few obvious musical influences in Modern Remains. The good news, though, is these are all fantastic inspirations, which makes this one pleasurable listening experience.