Let’s be clear: there are at least two Joshua Gabriels out there. One is the inventor of the Mixman and former member of the group Gabriel and Dresden; the other is the Brooklyn painter and musician who has just released The Book of Gemini, which is the subject of this review. I haven’t been able to find out much about this latter Mr. Gabriel but unfortunately I can’t recommend his album to you. It begins promisingly enough with “House of Cards” and its Indian drums and sitar sounds, during which time I thought I was about to listen to a nifty instrumental album, but then at 40 seconds in, Mr. Gabriel started singing and ruined it. Mr. Gabriel (henceforth referred to as JG) has a voice that is distinctly flat and whiny with much of the tonelessness of Michael Gira’s solo work but without that artist’s vocal potencies.
His voice is supremely uninteresting. The music is a blend of affected K Records style lo-fi rock minimalism and some hiphop elements of sampling and scratching but the combination doesn’t work well for me. Additionally, some of the samples appear to be from the Beatles’ back catalog. Licensing issues aside, the overall effect is disturbing. Picture a very diluted Old Time Relijun cover band (minus a singer) stuck on Duck Rock and the Fab Four and you’ll start to feel me here. Were it up to me, I would have asked Mr. Gabriel to eschew the temptation to sing over these tracks and also to remove some of the more gratuitous samples : I never need to hear those forking lovable moptops again, ever. Lyrics like “One more year, time to die” don’t do much for me, sung or whispered, or both, as on “5 Verses of Truth.” I prefer JG’s talking to his singing as on the song “Climbing Out of His Laundry Pit,” on which he sounds more like Lou Reed than a failed Bob Dylan, but again, lines such as “choking on his splintered soul” wipe out any gains that might be made here. JG commits the aesthetic sin of trying to sound profound armed only with the shallowest of rhetorical platitudes/ bromides/ etc.
On a positive note, I did enjoy the meandering organ playing and some of the guitar solos, but as a whole, the record comes across as rather dull, uninspired, and derivative of its influences in the most obvious (that is, uncreative) possible ways. I don’t think I’ll be returning to this album for another listen. Nice job on playing all the instruments, though, JG. Perhaps next time you could just leave it at that?