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New Music: Kate Lamont
Posted August 08, 2013 by Rob Peoni
WRITTEN BY
Rob Peoni
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August 08, 2013
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Kate Lamont MFT Page

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Earlier this summer, Indianapolis singer-songwriter Kate Lamont released her second solo LP. The self-titled album finds the vocalist returning to the R&B roots of a musical career that began around a decade ago with the trip hop outfit Mab Lab. Lamont appears to have the right team in her corner in veteran drummer/producerDevon Ashley and engineer Ryan Koch. Mab Lab's R&B moments felt more formulaic, centered around the call and response, boom-bap rhythm of a hip hop track. Here, Ashley manages to build sonic beds and provide Lamont with wiggle room, rather than forcing her into pre-determined segments. The end result is an album that feels more focused, fluid and organic than anything Lamont has released to date.

Lamont stripped things down in 2010 on a piano-centered, solo debut entitled After The Traffic withVess Ruhtenberg at the helm as producer. That album felt more exploratory with Lamont experimenting with a variety of genres, feeling out where she might venture as a solo performer. The pared back, ballad-driven approach found her showcasing a more serious side. While astonishingly beautiful, the album left me missing the playfulness of her earlier work. In Ashley (who happens to be a frequent Ruhtenberg collaborator), Lamont has found a producer that brings out her strengths as a vocalist without ever losing sight of the groove that gained her notoriety in the first place.

Ashley's rhythms, coupled with the lush samples of contributors like Dicky Fox, tend to have an aqueous flow that runs beneath Lamont's vocals. They breathe and sprawl in an amorphous manner. Opening track "Rather Leave U," "Birds Of Brooklyn" and "Raw Deal" all serve as adequate examples. That isn't to say the album is lacking in hook-driven singles. Look no further than the immediately addictive "Quality" and buoyant "All Summer" for evidence, but Ashley and Koch deserve credit for not forcing the action and providing Lamont with the space to roam in a way that still feels cohesive.

Like her producers, Lamont sounds content letting these songs channel through her rather than steering the ship. Her laid back approach to songs like "Level 3" showcases a nonchalance that may she may not have been capable of reaching three or four years ago. She allows the music to come to her, and as a result the songs feel effortless and natural without ever settling for the obvious. The album's creative tangents are more subtle than on previous releases, making for a beautifully sequenced, coherent listen.

Part of what excites me about Lamont is the lack of comparable performers in the Indianapolis area. Aside from Whitney Coleman, I can't think of anyone producing a throwback R&B sound that never devolves into mimicry. Perhaps this speaks more to my lack of familiarity with the genre than any accurate assessment of Indy's R&B scene, and I welcome a formal rebuke in the comment section beneath this post. If there are a dozen other local performers working within this medium, I'd love to hear about them.

Another strength of this record is Ashley's blend of drum machine and a traditional drum kit. The live feel provides Lamont's tracks with an exceptional textural depth. He softens the edges of the rhythm section in a way that's missing from the manufactured, soulless material that dominates today's radio airwaves. I'm not trying to knock the talent of Beyonce and Janelle Monae, but there's something about that stuff that feels like it was made in a vacuum. Lamont avoids this pitfall, and Ashley is a big part of that achievement. He brought similar contributions to the table as the backbone ofMeta Monk's EP in a Weekend earlier this year.

I've written a lot about Ashley here, which isn't designed to detract from any of the work laid down by Lamont. Her vocals are as beautiful and accessible as ever. It's just that it seems unlikely that she would've cut this record without Ashley's guidance. This album has been a long time in the making. Collaboration between Lamont and Ashley first surfaced with the single "All Summer" early last year. Fortunately for listeners, the final product was worth the wait. Purchase your copy of Kate Lamont's self-titled LP on CD or digital download from Bandcamp.

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