On Body Questions, Seth Kauffman (aka Floating Action, based in Black Mountain, NC) is unassuming to a fault, which makes his music a little difficult to describe. (Don’t get me wrong; I’m writing on the internet, so obviously I like the sound of my own voice and could spend all day flinging turgid analogies at you, like how he’s the equivalent of the restaurant with curtains across the windows and no signage but which serves amazing food once you realize the place even exists, or he’s like the lone woodworker who designs, cuts, builds, carves, inlays and finishes a beautiful armoire—and of course I did just fling all that crap while pretending I wasn’t—but I’ll try to be as fundamental as he is.)
There’s nothing distinctive about the quality of Kauffman’s voice or the way he sings, except its relative straightforwardness. There’s nothing unusual about the basic r&r instrumentation he uses or his playing style. He doesn’t mimic sounds from any particular era or genre. He’s so unpretentious that, apart from a tiny handful of instances, he doesn’t even engage in rhyme, the most sacred of pop music affectations. Lacking all the obvious frippery that generally comprises a musician’s ‘style’, you might easily have Body Questions playing on repeat a few times in the background, going about your business, before realizing you’re bobbing your head and singing along.
What distinguishes Kauffman here is the skill of his craft, especially when it comes to arrangement; he knows how to put everything precisely where it needs to be (and “put everything” he does; he plays all the instruments himself). Look closely, as closely as you could at a Seurat or Monet before the guard gives you the eye, and notice the individual subtle elements that pull it all together into something interesting. The structures are tight and focused, more so than on his previous albums; the melodies memorable; the harmonies inventive and evocative; the sonic palette peppered with variety and texture, like guitars flipped backward or made underwatery for a dreamy mood; the lyrics, freed from the constraints of rhyming couplets, containing unique turns of phrase.
The performances have a band’s dynamism and momentum, while simultaneously feeling a bit loose and casual; that’s not an easy thing for a single overdubbed musician to pull off, but Kauffman’s been working at it for years now and he makes it seem as effortless as sleight of hand by a practiced magician.
Buy it here.