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The best kept secret in music


"ROOMMATE "Celebs" ***2/3"

ROOMMATE "Celebs" ***2/3
mcd - 2001/2002 - Roommate (RM-2001) - 20'44"

Ahh the promise of genuine talent! This five track ep is something special alright. From the word go, it breathes an Anderson Solondz Linklater Aronofsky movie with a Vincent Gallo cameo, but at the same time it equally echoes Godley & Creme's 10cc, David Bowie, Elliott Smith, Grandaddy or even early Andy Pratt. The film associations should come as no surprise as the title track opens the albumette by mentioning an array of characters that's as expansive as the first half of any Altman epic. They're all at it again - 'it' being that special trait which marks them the mind of some celebrity-obsessed nobody. And the song only gets better, as the last part takes an ominous turn with phrases such as "George is in charge again" and "Courtney's face changed again", everything nearly spiralling out of control in much the same way as a dementing tv addict's mind would spin were he to suddenly realise that a brand is just a name for a product people earn money with, that the Marlboro man is a ghost and that all those people he's been filling his mind with without ever knowing them are just as unreal...
The other highlight of this altogether nice fivetracker is "RP (forget the metaphors)", a Neil Young styled ballad addressed to the late actor River Phoenix (1971-1993). The song dabbles a bit in his past, goes on to mention some party with Gus Van Sandt and Casey ànd Ben Affleck, and then hits home with a great finish which goes "Riiiiver Phoeoenix, if you were alive, would you hang out with them? Casey, Matt Damon, Gwyneth and Ben? Would you still be with Samantha Mathis, like Johnny Depp with kids and wife? Would you always be superfamous, or maybe someday could you be... a regular guy? /
Riiiiveeer Phoeoenix, I used to like drugs too, in fact I kind of still do, but I couldn't afford the ones that you used. / The fansite talks like you are an angel, at times even like you are Jesus. Why don't you come on down and see us, show us that you still need us...". Camp? Cynicism? A zany vignette? Above all, to me, it's a great reflection on fandom and that particular duality of finding yourself fascinated with some movie star or other, someone who's not even half an icon's worth, and knowing that fascination is there and that it's sickly silly. It is indeed something which seems to permeate so many people's minds and lives, and Roommate knows his way with the subject well enough to expose the phenomenon's less sane edges without being excessive.
Not that "Celebs" is a 'listen to the lyrics or turn away' record: a delicate young (man's) voice, a piano and some sophisticated extras every now and then (e.g. vibes, the odd harp) are what make this record special, as for instance the short instrumental closer "Exit celebs" (with its apt theatrical title) proves. And apart from the musicianship, there's the superb production. The two other tracks certainly don't disappoint either, but aren't as impressive.
And so - eh er..? Well, dear America, listen to the man and see to it that he gets to develop his talents? It's not that this is a brilliant record, but I kinda like the mixture of audacity and originality here, the ambition of which goes beyond slacker camp. Apart from being involved in movies (sic!), apparently, Mr. Roommate makes samples/textures music too (as Ocie Trimble) but I think that this side of his is more timeless ergo fascinating... making him a talent to keep an eye out for. But for now, "Celebs" is available via the web only (the site is listed below). Hey, who knows he'll turn out to be some sort of 21st Century Randy Newman?[Check our review of the remasters of RN's "Sail Away" and "Good Old Boys" masterpieces in a future uzine.] (pv) - Patrick Vandenberghe, Uzine, 8/2/2002

"Interview with: Roommate"


Roommate has just made one of the most promising debuts of the past few years with his "Celebs" chronicle (see [uzine 02.17] for a review). Apart from making the music therein, he also makes samples/textures music, as Ocie Trimble, and videos. The artist lives and works in Chicago as Kent Lambert.
Kent Lambert grew up in Colorado Springs and has spent five of the last seven years in the USA's Midwest region, attending the University of Iowa, co-directing the 2000 edition of the Thaw Festival of Video, Film and Digital Media in Iowa City (which was co-founded in 1996 by Lloyd Dunn of the Tape Beatles), and making experimental videos and pop music. His videos have been screened at festivals across the USA and at other such venues as Other Cinema in San Francisco, Exploding Cinema and the late Lux Centre in London, and the Mediawave Festival in Dunajska Streda, Slovakia.

- U: What are you up to? And how blind is your ambition?
+ Rm: As far as ambition goes, I would like to eventually get on some kind of label so I don't have to burn cd-r's and cut, fold & glue cd sleeves for every copy of every album I make, but I'm in no hurry. And while it would be nice to be able to partially support myself by making music, that's not my goal. I just want to make interesting music and to share it with other people. If I have to share it without the assistance of a label or distributor, so be it. I think I might also really love to do remix
collaborations with other musicians, which seems to happen frequently in electronic music. I also just started a mail collaboration with my friend Cody who records as the Rhombus; he sends me ProTools files on cd and I add sounds to his sounds and send them back to him, it's a good time. Someday I would love to be able to bring some good friends into a studio and make a thick, organic, collaborative record. But I can't see that happening any time soon. I'm patient. So you tell me - are those blind ambitions?
- U: What are you up against? And how unaware is your anger?
+ Rm: I'm up against myself, most significantly. I can be an obsessive perfectionist, which can be useful but can be equally destructive. My anger is considerable, but I try to keep it aware and under control, as I am fortunate to be alive and life is too precious to be spent feeling angry all the time.
- U: Whom are you the Roommate of, ideally?
+ Rm: Figuratively, I am the Roommate of anyone who chooses to listen to Roommate music, and I don't have any kind of ideal listener in mind.
- U: You're also making music as Ocie Trimble... Whose roommate is he? Can you please explain the pseudonym?
+ Rm: When I first moved to Iowa City in 1996 I didn't know anyone there and spent a week taking all sorts of photographs around the town. I forgot about those pictures and developed the film some 2-3 years later. One of them really struck me and I couldn't remember actually taking it. In the background there were some nondescript university buildings and in the foreground was this canoe with 'Ocie Trimble' printed on it. I had no idea what that name meant and assumed it was the name of the canoe company or something. I'd been trying to come up with a name to use for music I'd been making for some classmates' films, and Ocie Trimble seemed like a great, abstract, non-signifying name. And I thought the photo would make a nice album cover. Maybe a year later I made some music sketches for a cd-rom project in a class on interactive multimedia and credited them to Ocie Trimble. My professor Franklin Miller later told me that he knew a guy named Ocie Trimble and asked me why I had used that name for my music. I told him about the photo and he told me that his friend Ocie Trimble was this old guy who lived by the river and had founded the Iowa City rowing society, so that must have been his canoe in the picture. It was an alarming coincidence, as I'd already unknowingly assumed his name for my e-mail address and these bits of music. I actually have yet to release anything as Ocie Trimble, and I haven't finished an Ocie Trimble track in about three years. But I've got all sorts of skeletal sketches and ideas, and this vague conception of what an Ocie Trimble record might be like. I think it will be abstract and ephemeral, somewhere in the middleground between pop and pure soundscape. I figure since I named myself after this man who seemed to have made some fine accomplishments in the rowing field and everything, well, an Ocie Trimble album had better be something special. Right now I'm working on some new Roommate songs and just finished sequencing the music for one of them. During the process of arranging it I tried to include this conception of Ocie Trimble - like, how would Ocie Trimble make this last section more interesting? What kind of sounds would he add to the mix? It's like a collaboration between these two musical personalities that I've previously thought of as being separate or - Patrick Vandenberghe, Uzine, 8/9/2002

"Music Review: Roommate"

It seems like the bovine race has evolved to figure out how to play some pretty trippy instruments on Roommate’s first full-length CD, Songs the Animals Taught Us. It’s like Animal Farm with a twist. Instead of taking over the farm, the members come together to sing about the harm and pain that the human race is inflicting (and has been from centuries) upon one another.

The first song on the cd, “Tuesday,” starts off with some of the many creative lyrics heard throughout the disc. “The war will start on Monday. We will go to work, we will read the headlines, we will go get coffee…We will talk to God or maybe not. We will watch TV, we will change the channels, we will go to sleep and in our dreams we’ll drop the bombs and stop the bleeding in our dreams we’ll write the songs that start the healing in our dreams.”

In “Typhoon,” sounds like that of barking dogs and bombs dropping make up a dark, ominous picture in the mind. “I’ve been gazing at picture tubes flashing signals of sex and distress.” During the interlude, jungle sounds like birds and strange creatures send frightening messages. “I’ve been reading from scriptures, words can paint such awful pictures. Locusts, plagues, great wars and floods, the gods give nothing if not love.” Quite the oxymoron.

There are 11 members in this band, and they all play something different from what you would expect. Kent Lambert plays the synth, along with vocals and lyrics and, a bit strange but true, the computer and Gameboy. Amy Cimini plays the good old viola, along with Tom Comerford, Tim Daisy, and Anton Hatwich, who play the somewhat “normal” things you find in your in your run-of-the-mill bands, like guitar, drums, and bass, respectively. And a band is not complete without someone on the xylophone, banjo, and bassoon (Dewayne Slightweight, “Uncle” Woody Sullender, and Katie Young).

These young people have a real heart for music and a different grove, which sets them apart for other bands. And they are just getting started. Granted, not everyone enjoys their particular style of music, but, for those that do, this is a band to keep your eyes on. - Marina Agerter, Reader Weekly, Duluth, MN, July 28, 2005.


"Celebs", five-song EP, 2001. Self-released.
"Songs the animals taught us", full-length LP, 2005. Label pending.

"RP (forget the metaphors)" (from "Celebs" EP) broadcast regularly on the Duyster program, Studio Brussel Radio, Belgium, beginning in 9/2002. Included on 2-CD Duyster compilation, along with tracks by Sparklehorse, Cat Power, Styrofoam, Bright Eyes, Joanna Newsom, Tortoise, Low, and more, released March 2005--2,000+ copies sold as of August 2005.

"Hot Commods" (from "Songs the animals taught us LP) also broadcast on Duyster program in late 2002.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Roommate began in New York City in the year 2000 as a recording project of singer/lyricist/keyboardist Kent Lambert. He finished the EP "Celebs" in 2001. "Celebs" landed in web journal Uzine's Top 20 releases of 2002 after being hailed as "one of the most promising debuts of recent years".

In 2004 a live Roommate band was formed in Chicago, with members including bassist Anton Hatwich, xylophonist Dewayne Slightweight, banjoist "Uncle" Woody Sullender, bassoonist Katie Young, percussionist Mark Wright, and musical saw player Evelyn Weston. In early 2005 Amy Cimini (viola), Tim Daisy (vibes/drums), Jim Duffy (drums) and Devin Davis (guitar/theremin) joined the Roommate collective.

"Songs the animals taught us", the first full-length Roommate album, was finished in June 2005. While the "Celebs" EP was performed and recorded entirely by Kent Lambert, "Songs the animals taught us" is a much more collaborative work, featuring performances by San Francisco's Cody Hennesy (aka The Rhombus) and Chicago's Tom Comerford (Kaspar Hauser) in addition to the musicians listed above.

Roommate's influences range from Nina Simone to Boards of Canada, and its sound is distinguished by an unconventional combination of acoustic and electronic instrumentation. Gameboy beats and bleeps blend with synths, strings and banjo to produce a strange, haunting, and timeless appeal. Lyrical influences include the books of Haruki Murakami and Raymond Carver, the films of David Lynch, Douglas Sirk, and Hollis Frampton and the banality and brutality of American culture. Pedestrian observations, pop-culture commentary, and surreal cinematic imagery are sung with delicate sincerity and biting wit. Like a tightrope walker above a bed of burning roses, Roommate delicately skirts the line between earnest pathos and fierce irony.

Roommate's live shows can be quite different from its recorded material. Songs that were recorded using computerized beats and tones are dramatically rearranged according to the musicians and instruments in the show, and a greater emphasis is placed on improvisation. Nevertheless, strong melodic hooks, tight rhythms, and passionate vocals ensure that the music's underlying pop sensibility is not overshadowed by the eccentric instrumentation. Roommate shows typically involve a healthy dose of witty banter, but the music is always the first priority--frontman Kent Lambert knows his way around a good comedic riff, but he also knows when to shut up and play.