RV Paintings
Samoa Highway
LP HMS 019

December 2010

   Samoa Highway is both the premiere vinyl release from the Helen Scarsdale Agency (available in 500 copies) and the second full album for RV Paintings, coming as it does three years after the Root Strata release Trinity Rivers. California-based brothers Brian and Jon Pyle man the RV Paintings controls and do so with an assured hand during the album's five psychedelic-soaked ambient soundscapes. The album title refers to a stretch of land running between two coastal communities in Humboldt County, one of which houses a municipal airport. That detail isn't insignificant, as plane sounds figure prominently into the powerful opening track. A warm drone sweeps in, inaugurating "Millions" restrainedly before the swelling haze is pierced by knife-edged guitar accents and the unsettling sounds of airplanes taking off and fireworks explosions. The mass continues to suspend itself in mid-air, all the while repeatedly punctuated by the violent roar of the plane engine and the combustion of fireworks, until the appearance of a piano theme imposes a normalizing effect near the ten-minute mark. In addition, ambient setting "Round-a-Bout Bench on a Cold, Foggy Day" pairs the metallic ripples of six-string shards with the gentle breaths of flute tones, storm clouds darken the horizon when "Mirrors" arrives with an ominous see-saw of strings, and ride cymbal splashes and flutes generate an ethereal cloud during "From Manila to Forever." The contrast between the brooding guitar-fueled atmospheres and the warmth of the flutes is one the recording's major drawing cards, and the additional colour wrought by strings, piano, and cymbals enhances the tracks' appeal further. Samoa Highway clocks in at a svelte thirty-three minutes which normally would seem modest for a full-length but in this case feels just right. There's enough material on hand for the listener to get a complete sense of the artist and the music's character but also just enough that the listener is left wanting more.