Trickles & Floods
Trickles and Floods has a 'California poetique' feel -- it's elegant and nasty and spacy-vibed, all in one funky package. From jazz to rock to flamenco to soul, I.J. Smith's eclectic sensibilities are far-reaching, pushing the boundaries between artistic schools of thought. With a voice like an avant-garde hipster/spiritual gangster smoking cigarillos out on a sun-drenched Southern Californian horizon, waiting to shoot someone down in a flurry of broken rhymes and challenging musical seismographic sensoria, Smith throws his half-spoken, half-sung poetry into the mix. His songs center around finding a spiritual existence, and range from explorations the soul's dark places, such as 'Egg Shells' and 'Untitled', to wonderment at the sublime, best exemplified by two of Trickles and Floods' three instrumentals -- 'El Camino de Los Chingomes' and 'Lazy in the Grass (a Sierra Butterfly)'. The instrumentals also showcase Smith's stellar musical talents, most notably his slick guitar-work. But don't be mistaken: he's backed up by a collection of extremely capable musicians. Just beneath of it all, there's a sense of an understanding of not understanding, a kind of aching, Zen-like sadness that cuts very deep and pulls everything together into some sort of ecumenical whole. Loss is it's common denominator: lost plans, lost dreams, lost lives, and most notably loss of self. Knowledge comes in fleeting glimpses, and rarely, at that. This can best be heard on 'Smoke and Mirrors', where we're thrown headlong into the stumbling, deconstructivist sense of a decentered self, or on the bizarrely ironic 'A Clear Head', in which we're hit with a barrage of difficult, disjointed sounds that match the internal noise from a cluttered head. Even on 'Moonflower', which celebrates finding the one, there's still a sense of unspoken incompleteness: one hoping to be restored, hoping to be healed, lifted up to an otherworldly existence. In Trickles and Floods, we hear a man coming through the other side of an existential crisis -- a man who isn't so much transformed as resigned to the realm of the unknowing. Smith's songs acknowledge and accept life's illusory quality -- something just beyond the goals for which our hearts yearn. Sometimes he embraces this joyfully, and sometimes it depresses him; sometimes he's in a state of complete and utter awe. There's an intrinsic value to this sensitivity, this ability to sit inside this meditative state of being without coming across as forlornly nihilistic or woefully maudlin. Smith finds the sweet spot and rides it into the sunset, completing the picture with long blue convertible, wing tip shoes and wraparound shades -- not because they're cool, but because they're an essential part of the world's illusion. -- Emory Elkins With guest artists such as Ben Barnes (Deadweight) Sam Bass (Deadweight), Micah Epps, Daniel Soto, Jason Schwartz (Boxcar Saints) and featuring Allison Lovejoy on 'Let it Me', Trickles and Floods proves itself an exceptional work, a rollercoaster of diversity.