Album Reviews

Emit Bloch – Dictaphones Vol 1

(One Little Indian) UK release date: 5 April 2010

�6 doesn’t buy a lot in the age of the great global money apocalypse, but for the price of a couple of beers Emit Bloch appears to have recorded an entire album from his kitchen table.

Something costing more to buy than it did to record is likely to raise eyebrows and lower listeners’ expectations to subterranean levels. Luckily, despite the ultra low-fi approach it’s instantly clear that Bloch has the balls and the songwriting talent to pull this one off. Dictaphones is far from amateurish and at times could easily be mistaken for a brilliant Woodstock-era bootleg straight from the bottom of a beatnik’s backpack.

Earlier versions of these songs gained a great deal of momentum thanks to the internet and although studio recordings were eventually made the eponymous dictaphone still had an edge. The idiosyncrasies of the recordings add a ramshackle edge and complement Bloch’s tales of grifters and his own take on the Wild West.

Bloch takes us on a tour of his world through 16 witty ditties, starting with an invitation to spend some time in his country cabin, presumably a place where Bob Dylan‘s first albums are played on daily rotation. There are definitely flashes of the same wit and delivery style in these folk tracks. The ’60s cosmic edge and nods to hippiedom are obvious when Bloch embarks on a tongue-in-cheek tree-hugging anthem halfway through proceedings.

Though the majority of the album is upbeat and mostly comic, there are some darker elements. Married Creature charts the trials of a relationship with the memorable lyric: “There’s a creature called the couple that’s been together too long.”

You should be prepared for at least one or two moments of bad recording that will have you cursing the frequencies in your headphones – if there is one fault it’s that a couple of the tracks could probably have done with a second take for the sake of getting some better recording levels. But this is a small complaint, since the warts ‘n’ all approach is so winsome and it seems to fit Bloch’s fun folk outlook like a glove.

Though arguably retro and derivative, it’s hard to not listen to this album without a smile on your face. Dictaphones’ collection of tracks are immediately accessible. Lovers of ’60s style Americana, all things lo-fi and or simply those who marvel at a crafty lyric or two will be only too happy to part with their hard-earned bread for this album. With a little luck our collective spending power could boost the budget for volume two to …a tenner, perhaps?

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Emit Bloch – Dictaphones Vol 1