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Area Resident’s Album Of The Week: Andy Trithardt | I Am A Unique Flower

The multi-talented Torontonian's third album is a quietly powerful instrumental gem.

Three’s the charm for Andy Trithardt. The Toronto theatre scene actor, sound designer, composer, musician and performer quietly dropped his third solo album in December — a lovely vinyl copy of which showed up in the mail this week.

Trithardt’s I Am A Unique Flower takes the winning elements of his previous two albums and combines them into an excellent record by anyone’s standards. This one, like his previous release — 2016’s Grand Mal — is an instrumental album. His first — 2015’s Secret Fun — was not. I’m actually not sure who the vocalist is on Secret Fun, but I presume it is Trithardt himself. I find it takes away from the quality of the slightly poppy, cool music. It’s a very animated voice, in a They Might Be Giants kind of way. Perhaps he thought so too, because Grand Mal is completely different — instrumental, almost ambient/Kraut/drone, and the songs are two or three times longer. It’s really beautiful and quietly powerful.

I Am A Unique Flower takes the short song lengths and accessibility of the first album, and melds them together with the indie-instrumental elements of the second, and then adds improved, dynamic songwriting, great production and varied and creative instrumentation. It ticks all the boxes. It’s a damn fine album and there were a whole bunch of times I restarted songs because many of them would lend themselves quite well to lyrics. Actually, I’d go as far as to say some of them are screaming out for lyrics. You could hang an additional melody on these songs very easily.

That said, if I were one of those people whose job it is to pick songs for music placement in soundtracks, ads, beds and backgrounds — any and every one of the 10 tracks on I Am A Unique Flower seem like contenders. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t please-wait-on-hold music. It is quite captivating. Let’s go through it.

Side 1 opens with The Glow, a coagulating piece with a picked electric guitar melody, later doubled on piano. The song lets you know right from the start that there are a heap of tracks, takes and instruments on this album. This one alone has two guitars, live drums, percussion, piano and at least four synths.

A Brave Man is next, initially bass-led with an almost western electric guitar taking over. There’s a soaring, lovely solo which is nicely nestled down in the mix instead of screaming at you. I’d hazard a guess that Trithardt has Eno and Tangerine Dream albums in his collection. If not, he should. The best thing about A Brave Man, though, is its coda/outro. It’s very, very good. I love great codas — Scarecrow by Pink Floyd, Plateau by Meat Puppets.

It gets even better on the next track, the beautifully slow Over The Horizon, which features lap steel (or pedal steel, I don’t know). There are some very moving chord changes towards the end of this one — made very ethereal by the coolest woodwinds ever. Trithardt and his mix conspirator Adam Wright know exactly what ornaments to pick and exactly where to hang them.

Four Floors Up comes after and is the shortest song on the record. To me this song is this: You ride an elevator up, the doors open and there’s a big window at the end of the short hallway beside the elevator doors. The view is entirely new to you and you linger there for a minute and 19 seconds.

Dawning concludes the first side of the record, if you have the vinyl — and you should, since it’s a great-sounding pressing and the sleeve artwork is lovely. Though I’m not sure where you can get it. It’s not on his Bandcamp, at least not yet. Just the digital album, which was also included with my vinyl copy.

Anyway, Dawning. This one starts like something from Grand Mal before quickly turning into another guitar-hook chill-out tune. I’m not enamoured with this. That guitar hook is annoying after awhile. The song has a nice break in the middle and then comes back with descending sax lines instead of the guitar — which is much nicer, though I never thought I’d find myself saying that.

Side 2 starts with Just A Week, again featuring steel guitar and some more western flourishes, but jazzy. This progresses into a slightly ’60s John Barry/Henry Mancini guitar refrain, with less twang. It’s pretty cool.

Anytime is next, a treat on headphones. Some cool rhythmic synth pads slipping around the spectrum. Another song which is reminiscent of Grand Mal, that is until it neatly falls together into a nice band-like song with drums and all. In fact, most if not all the songs on this album have live drums. Anytime reminds me of Massive Attack a little.

Then it’s The Thief, which starts with some vintage-sounding keys being encircled by a pair of thin synth pads. There’s also more lap steel — and vibes! Oh, I do like those. A little Floyd-soundtrack-era, perhaps, except for the clever little skip in the beat. I like how none of these tracks fade out, they all have endings — or just stop, which is still preferable to fades.

The penultimate number is What Understated Elegance, which also has a slightly western feel courtesy of the combination of chunky baritone-ish guitar overtop of slide. This one gets weird, though — it progresses into a middle bit which is like a mix of two different songs from The Spoons and The Cure. The drums keep this song from having any swing at all — they are very staccato throughout, which gives the song a unique tension despite how chill it is musically.

Clear Blue Light wraps everything up, solid choice. It’s kind of anthemic and actually does have a face-melter guitar solo which crests dramatically and wraps just as it seems to be coming undone.

This is a very thoughtful and well-crafted album by some folks who clearly are music fans. I bet they’re happy with it. It’s not pretentious, rarely repetitive, and actually rather inspiring. 4/5


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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.