Grape Room – “Heart of Gum” LP/CD
Following up a slew of LPs on Feeding Tube Records and NNA Tapes, the twisted pop producer Grape Room (fka Great Valley, or in real life, Peter Nichols) presents his Nicey debut, written and recorded in the last months of his half-decade in the fabled hill town Brattleboro VT, where demented but brilliant Brian-Wilson-esque pop songs seem to fall out the sky (see Chris Weisman, The Lentils, Ruth Garbus, Blanche Blanche Blanche). Heart of Gum could be seen as a return-to-earth for Grape Room, whose past explorations sometimes bordered on cartoon-like insanity, or it could be seen as an elevation to new heights of pop clarity. Peter is not hiding a deep obsession with Prince (whose favorite 80s drum-machine performs on every song) and Japanese pop experimentalists like Haroumi Hosono, and also not aloof from the northeast’s new crop of prog-rockers. He remains as devoted to new grooves in 7/4 time signatures as he is to cheesy key-changes from the book of pop tropes. (Look at “Waiting 4 Banny Grove” for an example of both.) The cartoonish faux-realism of past Grape Room productions definitely survives, since this album was composed using a guitar-to-MIDI interface to substitute fake voice, sax, and bell patches for guitar notes. But this time Peter withholds the irony from his lyrics in particular, leaving songs of impressive emotional depth and sincerity, like “Never Seen Yr Face,” which echoes the saddest B-52s song (“Ain’t It a Shame”) amidst a wash of breathy synth pads, or the inspired finale “Instant Flame” — about true and unguarded love. Grape Room is now based in Los Angeles.