Review: Ratburn - "The Dangers of Running in Small Circles"

Ratburn - The Dangers of Running in Small Circles
(Self-Released 2013)
"The scattered experimentations of previous recordings compressed  into an extremely quirky album" 

The Dangers of Running in Small Circles is the fourth Ratburn release in the past 7 months, and it's easily their best album yet. The Pennsylvania-based duo, made up of brothers Steven and Kacey Stewart, have taken the scattered experimentations of previous recordings and compressed them into an extremely quirky album that still maintains a sense of flow, resulting in a sound that recalls mid-90's home recording projects like Dump and Portastatic. "For me, it's not so much the sound of a band that I consider to be influential," said Kacey in a recent interview I conducted with the brothers, "I love anyone with a prolific discography and tries a lot of different things, some of my favorites are Guided by Voices and R. Stevie Moore."

Leading off is "Thanks for Nothing", a track flooded with fuzzy power chords, nearly drowning out the sound of the trebly drums and vocals, which have the monotone yet dramatic quality of Lou Barlow's. Whining lead guitar sometimes pokes through the surface like a needle, weaving through the fabric of the song. The thunderous vibes then dissipate to make space for a more sparse track, "Wither". It's an acoustic tune that sounds like it could have been taken from Built to Spill's There's Nothing Wrong With Love, with layered vocal and six-string harmonies. These two opening tracks set the tone for the next 11 songs, split between grimy rock textures and straightforward acoustic songs. A beautiful keyboard-based track ends the album, the brittle-sounding "Yeah, Me Too". Given the rate Ratburn's been churning out albums lately, they have the potential to be obsessed over, with their expansive discography spanning several genres and recording styles. Best to jump on the bandwagon now. If you wanna learn more about the band, read the interview in issue 4 of my zine, (it's free, just send me your address). Listen to the album below.