Album Review: Vervex

Gather & Scatter

When Vervex’s Jake Barrow recorded his 17-song debut EP Zapatos in his bedroom—the then solo-artist hadn’t imagined enlisting a live performance crew. In the four years since he fairly recently assembled a steady band of Nick Emard (guitar), Casey Dunua (bass) and Sterling Laws/Tom Fitzgibbon (drums). And now as of press time, he’s announced a planned return to playing on his own.
At its best, Gather and Scatter sounds effortless, possessing a seamless ability to weave together plainspoken lyrics and thoughtful string arrangements without sounding as if they’ll slip—and that’s exactly where lead track Midas Eyes finds itself. From the honeyed strings and air-washed vocals, pellucid under hand of Portland’s post-production aficionado Chris Vita, the elements are aligned all in place to push well into the next song.
One of the first times I ran into Barrow he was on a bench at Western Washington’s University overlooking the long view of water, covering Beirut with a ukelele. Thing is, the power of a love ballad well-placed is of course, very fine, but in the case of “Ground Level,” song two of three in the EP named, ear-lacquered lyricisms overbear the uke’s light heartedness. All the more complicating is closer “40-Love,” which while being clever—comparing pining to a tennis game—hits as saccharine despite clear instrumentation inflection, i.e. “Cuz’ you’re number 1, hope you had your fun.”
It’s fun to pick up on borrowed ethereal, here, nods to Devendra Banhart, Washed Out, Dr. Dog, but what Gather and Scatter most needs, in my opinion, is to collect the echo of what they don’t already have, songwriting rich enough to form an emotional and listening experience.
-Harrison Kadwit