Sam Evian

Time to Melt

The third album from Figure 8 Studios former inhouse engineer, has all the grooves and breaks in the right places but the studio takes the front seat, finds Jeremy Allen

Sam Evian’s third album Time To Melt performs the neat trick of being positively lustrous and doggedly homespun at the same time. There are eleven largely mood-based songs full of lush instrumentation, with the creator no doubt having mined his 70s psychedelic soul and orchestral rock albums in the making of this record. That attention to detail makes for a warm and woozy affair.

When I say homespun, some context is needed. Under his real name Sam Griffin Owens, Evian has worked as house engineer at Figure 8 in Brooklyn, he’s mixed Big Thief and Cass McCombs, and co-produced Kazu Makino’s criminally neglected debut solo album Adult Baby. The singer-songwriter grew up in bucolic Upper State New York, and while he’s clearly a man who loves what he does, relocating to the Big Apple to work didn’t agree with him. He and his partner and collaborator, Hannah Cohen, moved out of the city and set up a home studio in the Catskills where Time To Melt was recorded. That shared intimacy gives the album warmth, like a Linda & Paul McCartney album, even if the studio trickery from someone who does studio trickery for a living is state-of-the-art.

Out of the ennui of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a pause from duties, came this new offering from an artist who also plays with Brooklyn indie-rockers Celestial Shore. Evian began sifting through half-finished instrumentals, which were then developed and brought together for a surprisingly cohesive work. You know you’re in for a treat in the first thirty seconds of ‘Freezee Pops’ when a picked acoustic gives way to a clattering high-hat and the exquisite drop of a slippery bass, followed by smooth, sedately bowed strings, evoking Gainsbourg’s ‘Ah Melody’. Having reviewed this record via a Soundcloud link, the only thing missing for me from that intro is the warm crackle of the needle finding its place in the groove.

There are nods throughout to progressive soul superstars like Isaac Hayes, and the slide guitar outro on ‘Never Know’ suggests George is in fact Sam’s favourite Beatle – though the album always strikes the right balance between vintage and cutting edge, never unduly nostalgic or pastiche-y, with sax breaks, searing synth solos and simulated Stax horns that never feel indulgent or showy. If the whole thing was crafted within a comfortable bubble, there are lyrical concerns about the state of the world, like on the Marvin Gaye-inspired ‘Knock Knock’, drawing on Evian’s observations of racial tensions in North Carolina where he also spent some time living as a kid. The words are often whispery and deep in the mix, which is understandable given that he doesn’t have the vocal chops of the aforementioned soul legends. On Time To Melt, it’s the studio that does most of the talking.

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