Keith Freund: Constant Comments

While listening to Keith Freund’s lovely Constant Comments, it’s often difficult to discern whether the sounds are coming from inside or outside the listening room. Voices, birdsong, honking horns, barking dogs, the opening and closing of doors, ocean waves and rainfall mingle, freely and happily, with crystalline and gently strummed electric guitars, synthesizer sounds, electronic burps and gurgles, tape hiss, and more.

The result is a comforting and thought-provoking ramble. Listening to Constant Comments is like walking down 3rd Street, between Coles and Monmouth, late at night, glancing into the glowing windows of strangers’ homes: I can’t help but make up stories for these scattered shards of song. The 12 tracks of Constant Comments, then, are glimpses into other worlds, at once foreign and familiar, and altogether compelling.

Song titles are sometimes strange, sometimes straightforward, but add depth and mystery to the music. I can’t come up with a story to match the distant voices and tinkering of “He Noticed I’m Alive…and Other Hopeful Signs,” but “Deep Shit Sunburn” easily sounds like a summer sun rising over the giant blue-green ocean, the waves curling into little mounds of white foam. While most of the album’s tracks are brief—several clock in at around two minutes or less—“The Ortzi,” at nearly eight minutes, is the album’s centerpiece: a gentle, meditative soundtrack to a foreign film, a stroll through a European city.

Weaving throughout Constant Comments is the sound of children at play. (Or maybe it's just the sound of children. Often enough, there is no difference between the two.) It's a sound that invariably conjures feelings of freedom—freedom from responsibility, freedom from worry, freedom from nostalgia. Heard through adult ears, however, it seems impossible to separate those freedoms from a nagging anxiety. Now, too, Constant Comments sounds like a child who knows summer is about to end. A screen door left to flail in the wind, the passing of a ghost or memory.

Altogether, the album has a hypnagogic effect. The artwork—a basketball backboard and hoop surrounded by a thick growth of ivy—suggests a childhood’s resistance to the passing of time. There is a longing, a recollection of something, heard even in the looping and reversing of the brilliant guitar notes—something that reminds me of Matt Mondanile’s Ducktails (but without the lo-fi haze) and also of Mark McGuire’s excellent Living With Yourself.

Though some might object to the sections of heavy tape hiss, the sound quality throughout Constant Comments is very good—present and alive, in the best possible way, and with good dynamic range. Freund’s wonderful guitar tone is an anchor—round, vibrant, and radiant—and unmistakably Fender. (A Jazzmaster, I think.)

The closing track, “Is Anything Too Hard for God?,” features the sounds of birds, the whir of electricity, and that gorgeous guitar; and it concludes with a child announcing into a recorder: That’s the end for now, Eli.

It’s impossible to avoid the feeling that this is, in fact, the beginning.

Strangely, more than ten minutes later, as I sit on the orange couch, reading and thinking, I notice the sounds of cars passing by, bicycle tires spinning, balls bouncing onto the sidewalk, children playing on Monmouth Street below my apartment windows, and, for just a moment, I’m confused into thinking that the record is still spinning.

Constant Comments is a success.

Keith Freund’s Constant Comments is available now from Experimedia in an edition of 300 LPs, 100 pressed on green vinyl.

nunhgrader's picture

You sure make me want to buy this!

Stephen Mejias's picture

You can listen first at Experimedia if you're not completely sure.