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On Repeat Tapes ORR2 RaRaFre​+​Am S/t

RaRaFre​+​Am - S/t CASS Limited Stock: 11 Available
The quartet RaRaFre+Am - Rafael Cohen, Raquel & Franke Vogl and Amelia Saddington - was a rarity in the D.C. punk scene around the year 2000. The group explicitly pursued a tightly-plotted chamber music, orchestrated for guitar, oboe, accordion and standup bass. Their sound can feel like a contradiction: these densely woven, dirge-like miniatures careen from section to section with a prickly insistence, while at the same time exhibiting a trademark sense of cheeky humor, a lightness to the touch and a brisk, unfused group chemistry that many bands would find enviable.

RaRaFre+Am is as fascinating for what they don’t do as for what they do: no drums, for one. And it’s hard to miss how stark these arrangements can be. There’s very little in what you might call dynamics; the players tend towards a direct, unmannered, even mechanical approach that cannot have been an accident. This clockwork playing lends an undeniably expressionistic cast to the works, but therein lies one of the most delicious paradoxes of the group. This music bears many of the hallmarks of fraught angst, yet the mood couldn’t be more relaxed.

RaRaFre+Am was, like many groups in D.C., short lived and only one iteration of a larger crew of friends and collaborators who would work together in a sprawl of bands, one-offs and recording projects. But these sessions capture a moment of crystallization, when the members’ voices were achieving a new level of distinctiveness and confidence. A quick toggle over to El Guapo’s Super/System (developed contemporaneously to RaRaFre+Am) or the recordings of Franke and Amelia’s Et At It (which quickly followed), and you can hear the individual threads being pulled out and reworked in new contexts. Even without that background though, this music stands up very well after all these years, a set of mercurial moments that elide definition yet know exactly what they are.

--Daniel Martin-McCormick