Seattle, Washington singer-songwriter Igor Keller’s beauty within his soul shines outwards to all that hears his music. His upcoming release Album 21 demonstrates this statement by soaring through a prismatic melodic menagerie of pop pomp and unusual circumstance. No genre or contrivance is sacred when you have a deep knowledge of the contemporary canon; on Album 21 our rakish host indulges us with judicious dollops of Shag-carpet synth-pop, Bossa nova, chamber punk and Gauloise-scented piano jazz. Everything is of course just-so, all tied together in a neat bow by Keller’s preternatural knack for string arrangement and intentional instrumentation.
Under the musical moniker Longboat, Keller has dropped the video for his masterfully done single “The Wilderness Years.” “For many people, there is a time of soul-searching akin to aimless wandering through an unending landscape. It may take days, weeks or even years, but when you emerge, you might have figured out some important and essential truths. The time out in the wilderness isn’t wasted if you can learn something about yourself along the way. Otherwise, the experience will be pointless isolation and suffering,” Keller says regarding the single. To better understand Keller’s vision with the single, check out the second verse: “Things don’t really change here/ And I’ll never be less than lost/ Mountains climbed and rivers crossed/ Trees rise all around me/ Like giants in some hackneyed prose/ This really is the life I chose.” As for the video captures the essence of “The Wilderness Years”; exquisite video of snow-covered mountains, picturesque forests, and a sunrise that will leave you breathless.
Album 21 was written during the lazy, temperate and carefree summer of 2019, along with five other albums, all improbably recorded during the bleakest stretches of 2020. While each track on Album 21 has its own identity and charts its own course, what unites the record are the string arrangements, which serve each tune in different ways. “As an arranger, you have to make room for the string section, otherwise everything will sound cluttered and your players will be wasting their efforts” explains Keller. “When adding strings, the question to ask is whether they are actually needed. In this case, the answer is yes.” Here, the strings are deployed in different capacities: they play full-length melodies and countermelodies, provide hooks, comment on the vocal line, create a particular vibe and lend a more percussive and syncopated element to the music as a whole. Take away the strings, and you quash the soul of the tune.
Once the writing and arrangement was complete, Keller and his core band of guitar wizard RL Heyer, bassist Chris Symer (Bill Anschell), Joe Doria (McTuff) on Hammond organ and drummer D’Vonne Lewis (Wynton Marsalis, Industrial Revelation) decamped to the legendary Studio Litho in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Recording was interrupted at the halfway mark by the state COVID lockdown on March 17th. Tracking resumed on June 1st.
Like every Longboat album, each cut stands as its own. Yet, Keller’s immaculate string charts amplify both the emotional weight of the songs and depth and richness of the sound. “I don’t write love songs. I don’t pay any attention to idiotic hype” says Keller. “But I will continue to write at this breakneck pace, because that tends to yield the best music. My constant focus is always on giving the listener a unique and powerful musical experience.” With Album 21, it is safe to say Keller has achieved that goal.