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Music Review: Computer vs. Banjo – Computer vs. Banjo

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Music happens to be one of those things that is always ever changing, constantly astounding, and never unenjoyable. If music can do that, then logically the previous statement should also apply to music's creators… or at least some of them.

Nashville, Tennessee band Computer vs. Banjo happens to be experimenters of a surprising unique blend of folk electronica, a musical mix thankfully already coined "folktronica." It might sound like a silly subgenre, but listening to the resulting fusion of two seemingly contrasting (both in age and sound) styles can prove the term's validity.

CvB is comprised of a couple of experienced artists, both hailing from successful bands despite different originating musical backgrounds. Johnny Mann was a jazz studies major before playing guitar for Gran Torino; while Beau Stapleton taught himself, focusing on roots music before playing the mandolin for Blue Merle.

What started out as a side-project for the two turned into a 12-month odyssey of musical exploration, culminating in their band's self-titled debut. Stapleton revealed in a public statement that he felt "really lucky to have had that time to just experiment and be creative." 

The opening track "Jubilee" helps kick off the album with the kind of subdued quasi-soul that only dudes could provide. The pseudo funky folk of "Guitars Need A Sinner's Touch" (see video here) extends the duo's commitment to the almighty thing called love, which is later highlighted by the two managing to turn an adolescent poem about a crush into a workable make-out song ("Magazine Queen").

That's not to say CvB is all fluff and no puff. They show off their edge with the air of dusty endlessness and the breath of hesitant lawlessness in the Beck-like "Give Up On Ghosts" (download mp3 here), in the dour rebelliousness of "San Joaquin," and in the uncertain nature of romantic courtship with "Lost." Say what you will, but juxtaposing themes of starry-eyed happiness and realistic misfortunes isn't easy.

Computer vs. Banjo is a pleasant debut for the Nashville duo, who crafts the brisk minimalism of folk's blunt and depressing core with the peppy modernism of electronica's penchant for getting anything to sound remotely body-movable.

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About Tan The Man

A proud dork and loser, Tan The Man writes mostly about film and music, and has previously covered the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, South By Southwest and WonderCon.