This will probably not come as a surprise to listeners, but there’s more to recording an album than just sitting down and playing songs. Different instrumental lines might be taken from different sessions. Musicians go through take after take trying to find the perfect inflection in a piece of lyrical delivery or the perfect tone on a guitar line. And even once everything is recorded, the work is done. Producers and mixers have to take all this raw material and put it together into what eventually comes through your headphones. Unfortunately for Angelo De Augustine, that last part of the process falters, negatively impacting his otherwise enjoyable folk sensibilities on his new album Swim Inside The Moon.
These issues are apparent from the jump. As “Truly Gone” begins with a warm guitar, the first thing a listener will notice is that it is loud. It’s loud enough to startle if the listener is not prepared. While normally turning down the volume might be enough, that solution doesn’t work here. When De Augustine starts to sing, his voice is at a wildly lower volume than the guitar. This huge gulf in volume is not only confusing, but makes it hard to understand the lyrics. For a short folk album, “straining” is not the word that should be brought to mind when describing the listening experience, but that’s exactly what happens.
It’s not a great first impression, and the problem persists to some degree on many of the tracks. None is quite as bad as “Truly Gone,” which comes as a welcome relief, but tracks like “On My Way Home” and “More Than You Thought To Use” aren’t great either. With the album coming in at only nine songs, this issue looms large over the brief experience. On the other hand, “Crazy, Stoned, and Gone” and “Fade” are some of the least imbalanced songs, making them a couple of the best songs on the album almost by default.
It’s a shame, too, as De Augustine clearly knows his way around a folk song. Swim Inside The Moon showcases his considerable talent on the guitar, each song a riveting example of the songwriter understanding an emotion completely enough to permeate a track completely. “Dreaming Of The Moon” is a delightfully whimsical track, “On My Way Home” is a quintessential road trip or hiking song as the weather starts to cool, and “Crazy, Stoned, and Gone” is a nice little narrative about the realization that comes with the mental state from those three adjectives.
Aiding in these songs is Angelo De Augustine’s unique and engaging voice. Every word is delivered in a breathy hush, with the singer displaying a great command on the upper register of the melodies he has written. Not to harp on the issue, but once again the full effect would be much more enjoyable if the instrumental was lowered in volume a bit so that more of de Agustine’s singing and lyrical talent could come to the forefront.
Angelo De Augustine is clearly more than capable as a folk musician, and Swim Inside The Moon could have been one of the must-listens for fans of folk in 2017. Unfortunately the mixing issues that pervade many of the song’s tracks makes this a tougher sell, as the separate parts of the tracks are so frequently at odds with each other when it comes to volume. You should still give Swim Inside The Moon a listen, but prepare for your volume settings to go on a rollercoaster ride.