The Dark, The Light, the new album from Atlanta musician Spencer Pope, sounds of another time, all lite-jazz Rhodes workouts and tasteful horn flourishes, courtesy of an impressively assembled cast of characters. Call it smooth-skronk. That Pope’s music often bears a passing resemblance to the quieter moments of Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart makes sense; he’s a member of on-again/off-again local Beefheart tribute act Big Eyed Beans From Venus, and the music is clearly in his veins.
But The Dark, The Light forgoes chamber-psych freakouts in favor of something meditative and, at times, downright pretty, like on the deliberate, wistful “Haribo,” or “Sunshine,” which returns again and again to a simple, singular melody. It’s not all slow-going; “Sharon and Richard” flirts with funk rhythm but thankfully refrains from going over the jam-groove line.
Indeed, the most notable thing about Pope’s record is how restrained it is. Pope is blessed with a composer’s sensibility, and The Dark, The Light bears that mark throughout. At certain moments, it can all feel too still. Overall, though, it is a rich, absorbing record.
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