October 13, 2016

EP: Crumb - Crumb

Crumb is here to show what it really means to play like a girl.

In “So Tired,” the third and final track on Crumb’s new self-titled debut EP, singer and guitarist Lila Ramani unfolds the musical equivalent of a lounge chair — slow, sun-dazed chords alongside a laid-back beat — and takes a moment to reflect on how she got here. With a voice that’s unadorned, practically conversational, Ramani explains, “When I was sixteen I learned to sing, I learned to sing / But every time I raise my voice inside I feel so tired / And I feel like the world is filled with people who can’t hear themselves speak.” Could music possibly have room for one more voice? she seems to be asking. Isn’t it crowded enough in here? By the end of the song, the deft Boston-based band has given us an answer. Jesse Brotter on bass, Brian Aronow on keys and saxophone, Jonathan Gilad on drums, and Ramani carouse in and out of upbeat, jazzy interludes, eventually carving out a space for Ramani’s chorus to ooze forth: “Trying to stop but this feeling remains,” she repeats. To create is fatiguing; to fight to have one’s creations heard, depending on who you are, perhaps even more so. Yet on Ramani creates.

When Ramani was 14, her guitar teacher told her to “stop playing guitar like a girl,” she told Sound of Boston. “I would consider this EP to be a response to that teacher — me shredding guitar like a girl for all my ladies.” “So Tired” concedes a kind of inertia: at rest, Ramani is a musician, and she can’t be anything but. Crumb self-identifies as psychedelic soul, and the loopy lines and jazzy riffs at work on this bite-size EP help the band stake its claim. Out of a fog of guitars soars Aronow’s sax solo at the end of “Bones,” the album’s first track. On the second track, “Vinta,” the band cuts loose, getting loud and pumping its fists and blowing raspberries before screeching to a halt, the killjoy double bar like the cops shutting down a party. Tempi are also out to play here and elsewhere, slouching back or shooting ahead. Countering this energy are Crumb’s lyrics, which are more or less grounded in the spirit of rainy-day melancholia (make that melodrama with a wink, as on “Bones,” in which “a thousand tears are pouring down to my toes”). The band is most at home in its moments of slower meditation, particularly in "So Tired," when Ramani’s unadorned, graceful voice can quit treading and float smoothly over its accompaniments. In these moments, the band seems to be trying to make sense of stillness — that is, the stillness for which our private frenzies sometimes pass. A frantic stillness particular to, dare the author mention without blushing, the unsettled college graduate. "Vinta" offers brief vignettes of characters adrift and a-dreaming who muse on having gone somewhere, a city or a white room or a past, only to end up nowhere. We can “rid[e] all the way down” in “Vinta” and “rid[e] a train” towards tomorrow in “So Tired,” but no trip (of any sort) will take us out of our heads. Crumb, though, gives us cause to be still, if only for a little while, so we can listen.


Listen to Crumb on bandcamp.

Jennifer Gersten is a freelance writer from New York pursuing a master's in violin performance. She's on Twitter @jenwgersten.