Rooms Full Of Gardens – Rob Eldridge and the dreamy coalescence of alternates. (Music Review)
Rooms Full Of Gardens
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So Rob Eldridge, the voice in front of Steelesque, takes a break from the Stones infected throbbing of the band and floats out on his own cloud of introspection in an album deceptively melodically svelte, all the while harboring a lyrical intimacy that pampers the intellect with its complexity, called Rooms Full Of Gardens. The primary difference here between the band and the man is the sublimation of a rock edge, Eldrige appealing more to a folksy reflection on his rock passions than with the outright ode Steelesque represents. In many ways the album is an exercise in the positing of lyrics against the relaxed nature of a laid back aesthetic. Room Full Of Gardens evokes the image of Eldridge and his guitar on a sunlit clipped lawn, a lazy stoned audience before him, as he sprouts his lilting songs that pack the punch of a Nietzschean aphorism. It’s a delicious slither of a record, nectar sweet, slipping and sliding around the mind, even as it evokes a toe-tapping simplicity.
Having never actually been to Pittsburgh its tricky to comment, but according to Ian Halls piece, Rooms Full Of Gardens does arouse a deep connection to the city Eldridge now calls his home. Apparently this Pittsburgh sound has an under appreciated quality, which having no connection to it myself, I can only assume is accurate, though Hall speaks about a deep connection to the city and its environs that an outsider can only appreciate through introduction rather than recognition. Eldridge has lived in Pittsburgh now for sixteen years, and according to lyrics like “Who do you favour today? I’m sitting in a mixed state – a schizo in a mixed state” one gets the impression Eldrdige is a restless soul that can’t help being content with his lot, even under the self-reference of “a Vermonter at heart”. Steelesque itself is a collective of local Pittsburgh talent, so in a way Eldridge has found his place in that city, while maintaining a yearning of sorts for where he hails from. From where I stand, it’s all there in the music. A lamentation for something lost through an overpowering joy at being surrounded by a place that fills you with inspiration and ideas.
At times the lyrics disappear under the dreamy-afternoon-delight spirit of the music. ‘Feed the Wolf’, track two, is a specific case in point, with dark lines like “Doesn’t matter if you feed the wolf/To a soft bed of pine” and “Our feet walk to meet, but stop at locked doors / It’s all set adrift in a boat with no oars” raging under the placid ease of the melodic guitar and whimsically soft chord structures. These lyrics come across like sweet whispers in Eldridges soft voice, cutting a slightly discomforting edge against the beauty of the melodies. This takes an abrupt turn into ‘Life’s Commercials’ which starts with a haunted repeated melody on the guitar, only to soften again into Eldridge’s gentle vocalisations, and yet lyrically the song is a swirling condemnation of the perpetual bombardment of electronic media and its insistence on taking over so much of our lives. All the tracks are like this, as if Eldridge wants to say that life’s commentary is secondary to that which is felt through artistic expression. Something one senses he lives as a duel austerity.
Under the master rubric of observation, a veritable aquarium of ideas swim through the warm sunny streams of Rooms Full Of Gardens, and the way each track is devoted to fanciful fluidity. The longest track, ‘Reverse the Sun’ floats in at just 3:32 minutes giving the album a bouncy lightness, that carries complex observations about daily human life along its warm lucid current. In this way Eldridge maintains his position as outsider to the Pittsburgh sound, bringing it alive in the waters of the songs, and yet keeping the “Vermonter” in the position of distant overhead floating observer, not a critic of his surrounds but a generous commentator on the life he partakes in as both instigator of local culture and visitor witness to the striking uniqueness that makes Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh. It is in the partnership of these disparate perspectives that Eldridge finds a unity that makes Room Full Of Gardens such an ocean, swelling with a unique sound that perfectly compliments and accompanies a unique time and place.