October 19, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Archaster - Would You Like Some Tea? (2012)

Striking in its frail icy beauty, Archaster’s Would You Like Some Tea is full of small delights and quiet moments, putting as much weigh on the atmosphere and nuances as on the actual music. It’s easy to think of it as an intimate bedroom-pop that smells of fumy breath or yet another spare, low-key record from someone who wants to make a Leonard Cohen or Neil Young out of his slit-wrist poetry. Hardly the case, Francis Yu—the man behind the dream-folk project, Archaster—dismisses the preconceived notion with an attempt to create a reflection of emotional truth in the most affecting and sincere way possible. On Would You Like Some Tea, Francis claims to be a slave of love. He makes music that is smaller than his heart but is as big as the impression it sends, capturing the pulley between love and nostalgia as if it’s restored into a film roll filled with sepia-toned memories. 

While many artists struggle to create a stirring piece of work that yields interesting results, Francis’ strength lies on the smallness and claustrophobia that he imposes on himself, making excellent use of whatever’s near and dear to him. There’s no sense of ambition or groundbreaking experiments on his new EP, Would You Like Some Tea; only songs meant to be heard in your own little room with nothing to hold on to but a cup of brewed tea and a cigarette stick. From opener track “Khristine Anne” to “Oakwood Avenue,” you can feel and smell the kind of love that inspired Francis to write these gems. It’s that vivid, and its subdued silence tugs your heart without wanting anything from it. 

There’s also that fragile ambiance in Would You Like Some Tea that works like a natural extension of Francis’ delicate wounds and words, getting more in touch with his feelings first than what he really wants to say to his loved one in public. It’s why songs like “Café Downtown” and “Letter To Montecarlo” connect to me the most. He knows that it would sound pathetic and pointless, but he just carries on with whatever’s contained in his sleeves. “And we can talk about anything under the power of sun / then never mind the hours ‘coz time’s a thief” he shows signs of fragility on “Café Downtown,” but works his way around words with Hallmark mastery. And on “Letter To Montecarlo,” Francis writes the kind of love song that listeners would be obliged to listen to, even if it throws off your romantic perspective for very long. 

Despite the musical simplicity built around hushed, dulcet melodies and keyboard flourishes, Archaster’s Would You Like Some Tea achieves something that can’t be bought by highly elaborative concepts and sweeping declarations of the profound. It’s effortlessly beautiful in its closed-door intimacy, leaving you with just about every form of comfort imaginable.  A 

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