Seaworthy – The Ride

Seaworthy
The Ride

Here are the three conditions under which you are suggested (by the label, mind you) to listen to Seaworthy’s album, The Ride: 1. In a dimly-lit room, late at night. 2. In your car, on a long highway drive 3. On headphones
Now what do these sort of conditions suggest to you? Well, to me, as a reviewer, they suggest quite a bit about this album before I even put it into the CD player. First, this album will not rock. It could do a very many things, but loud guitars, guttural howls, and driving rhythms will be absent. Second, this album undoubtedly has some very ethereal, ambient sounds to it. You see, those are the sort of things you’re supposed to listen to when it gets all dark and spooky at night. Third, this album will probably be very pretentious.
Not surprisingly, my predictions are correct. The album is indeed totally devoid of any actual “rock” music, it could certainly be considered ambient and eerie, and last but not least, the album is unmistakable in its pretensions (witness “The Ride, Part 1” and “The Ride, Part 2”). Seaworthy is not a band so much as the solo product of Josh Mckay of Macha fame. A couple of years back, Macha was a buzz-word indie band whose eastern influences got them photo spots in Spin and Alternative press. Seaworthy, however, is a bit different. It finds multi-instrumentalist Mckay – who has long produced his own work – indulging his more thoughtful, electronic side. Whereas Macha experimented with instruments, Mckay experiments with sound.
The Ride opens with “Open the Gates,” a spacey guitar mishmash with ringing feedback and suspended distortion. It’s a brief, wordless introduction to the album, but it’s by far the album’s most intriguing instrumental track. “I Met You in a Candy Store” opens with guitars oscillating in and out of the mix, weaving around Mckay’s disguised vocals and filtering the nervous percussion the plods in the background. The track, however, grows tired when chiming notes carry the song near the eight-minute mark. “Lone Star Samba is a far more interesting song, though it again uses disguised vocals and gentle, ambient sounds. “The Day,” which features guest vocals from a Japanese singer named Haco, sounds like a sparse Bjork outtake.
Mckay’s biggest fault is his use of vocals on the album. His guest female vocalists are interesting enough, but when he steps up to the mic himself, his vocals are always hidden under effects and buried in the mix. This is frustrating because there are songs under these experiments, and although I’m sure that Mckay doesn’t want his voice to override the sonic mishmash, he’s hurt his album by burying the vocals. Even worse are when there are no vocals, and his “songs” sound almost like Boards of Canada rejects, without the breakbeats. Occasionally, Mckay sounds like Pink Floyd, minus the guitar heroics, or, um, the melodies.
It’s obvious that Mckay needs a team of editors for his work. While he’s proven himself an ample musician and a superior producer, his choice of material and mixing is often questionable. Too many times it sounds as if Mckay is building songs on experiments, instead of building experiments on top of songs. Which came first the chicken or the egg? I’m arguing for the song. It’s what made Radiohead’s Kid A stand leagues all the myriad of bands before them who had tried to incorporate electronic elements into their music. Until Mckay learns this, his solo work will undoubtedly be looked over in favor of his more song-oriented work.