As a music descriptor, the term “wet” has been common parlance since the early 1960’s. Largely associated with reverb, it’s been used as a kind of shorthand to capture everything from the distant echo of the vocals on classic country tunes to the pedal effects of the single-string guitar leads pioneered by the King of Surf Rock: Dick Dale.
If wet, then, is a desirable quality of a musical composition, Florida-bred singer-songwriter Laney Tripp’s latest five-song collection sounds damn-near subaqueous. A serene and deeply meditative offering, Cedar Island Songs is a 15-minute journey to the depths; a sonic Wim Hof method, albeit endeavored in subtropical waters.
Tripp grew up in the sleepy, surf-obsessed Florida enclave of New Smyrna Beach. And, in combining musing lyrics and folk-y songcraft with an inclination toward experimental soundscapes on her previous releases, she’s hit on a kind of tropical-folk yin to the yang of Gulf-&-Western artists more often associated with songs that evoke saltwater gallivanting.
Cedar Island Songs amplifies the strengths of 2021’s Fishing From Heaven, which Laney recorded with frequent collaborator, the multi-instrumentalist and multimedia artist Jacob Cummings. For the new collection, Tripp and Cummings tapped musician and producer Benny Yurco (Grace Potter, the Nocturnals), working out the songs at the experimental wizard’s Burlington, Vermont studio. Joined by Michael Nau (Cotton Jones) and Seth Kauffman (Floating Action), the quintet tracked the EP live, working Tripp’s demos into a distinct brine.
EP-opener “Lady Fish” establishes the collection’s colorway, applying a deep-azure base coat with smears of swirling synths and ringing acoustic guitar. A chugging drumbeat moves “Waiting” across the surface glass, while the EP’s standout track, “Cedar Island,” dives deep, introducing new ornamentation – washes of pedal steel, twinkly piano runs. Even “Moon Crab,” the EP’s most-spare track, holds surprises for the curious ear, with plenty of atmospherics enveloping Tripp’s tasteful guitar work and diaristic lyrics. Digital samples, decaying synth stabs and subtle saxophone runs fill out the soundscape of closer “Movin’ On,” with Tripp floating on a vast, sparkly sea of experimental folk, singing, “Wasn’t wrong to think I might be sleeping / now that the sun has gone down.”
It took Tripp and co. a week in the landlocked New-England-state of Vermont to craft the coastline-evoking EP. No disrespect to Lake Champlain (the largest freshwater body outside of the Great Lakes, according to Wikipedia!), but, both sonically and lyrically, Cedar Island Songs contains a Pacific-Ocean’s-worth of multitudes.