Rafter - Music For Total Chickens
12.12.06 Asthmatic Kitty by Eric Nielsen
Rafter is a San Diego legend, crafting his music intertwined with the good people of SD for years now. If you don't know Rafter, you probably know one of the projects he's worked on or starred in. They include so many notable San Diegan and national acts that it's impossible to do justice with a list, but here goes: Black Heart Procession, Castanets, Maquiladora, Bunky, Sufjan Stevens, The Fiery Furnaces, etc etc. Do lists like this bore you? Are you looking for your project on this list because Rafter helped you? Sorry if it's missing. It's just impossible to list everyone.
My shorthand interpretation of the Rafter's SD story goes like this, Rafter moves down to SD to start working on some jingles with that fella from Trumans Water, Glen Galloway (who fronts his own amazing thing now called Soul-Junk). I met Rafter in a garage downtown with all his gear spread out like some music tweak collector in a dark room making these fuzzy sounds through all kinds of weird toys. I guess Glen had a list of corporate contacts and Rafter had the sounds and they banded together to form Singing Serpent. As it says in Rafters bio for this disc, if you've seen the last few Olympics or Super Bowls you've heard his music. So, you know things are going alright.
They moved into a studio downtown by city college and got the Singing Serpent studios going, hiring all sorts of good people and creating all kinds of things that hard work blessed with the right alchemy can create and started doing lots of ads. All the while working on recording, mixing and mastering the best of SD's music scene at night. You see Rafter is a workaholic. In his album one whole panel says, work hard and exercise your mind and body, you won't be sorry. (Oh yea, Rafter started the original weekly rock and roll soccer game that filled Balboa Park with smokers and long hairs).
Rafter started Bunky with Emily Joyce, did a bunch of albums and shows. They sold their building downtown and relocated Singing Serpent to another SD locale where they create magic still. Forgive my haziness for I only know some things for sure. I'm around but not necessarily down.
There's something about Rafter's good karma that has helped to propel him to these lofty heights. It's my feeling that in the indie music scene the more you do for others the more comes back to you. No one else is going to help you push your underground twisted music venture into something more than your personal dream, except for the other indie players that can vouch for, give credibility and expertise to your projects. And, almost no one in this town has the reputation for giving that Rafter has. He loans out equipment, offers advice on the phone, masters records, helps with composition, mixes tracks and sits with songs to find the true sounds of the songs. He helps the artist to better understand what it is that they do, and to articulate that truth.
This album does something I've not yet heard from Rafter. This album pushes the instrumentation and song structure deep into short songs, packed densely with many different sounds (the album is 18 songs and 37 minutes). So many sounds that you hear many other artists in there like Radiohead and Mogwai. The longest song on the disc is a 4:03 track called Boy that incorporates many of the ideas into one piece, you get some Beatles sounds, some whacked out drums and distorted instrumentation and then a slide into one of the most beautiful outs available today. This album really surprised me. I'm not surprised that it's a great album, but I was surprised at how different it is in many ways from what I expected. Sure there's some of the wackiness that I was prepared for, but there is so much beauty and when the craziness hits, it's one of the obvious delightful choices and crafted with a purposefulness that many noise pieces lack.
One of my favorite aspects of this disc is the way the vocals are layered deep into the textures of the songs. Rafter doesn't sound like Rafter! It sounds amazing and wise. Nice disc Rafter, looking forward to the next one! And thanks for what you mean and bring to SD.