‘Infinite Sprawling’ is the third album by prolific solo artist Andrew Doig AKA Robert Sotelo. The follow up to 2018’s superb lo-fi ‘Botanical’ is his second release on Upset The Rhythm. On ‘Botanical’ Sotelo did away with guitars for the most part, leaning heavily on a keyboard.
With ‘Infinite Sprawling’ he has returned to a traditional band setup but retains the beautiful vocal melodies, harmonies and slightly off-kilter song writing.
Sotelo is a very gifted melodist in the vain of Harry Nilsson, but with a loose and crooked playfulness. Something Besides is a beautiful swaying opener. The wordplay is a delight. The rhyming couplets are playfully timed and have a satisfying mouth feel. There are some beautifully timed guitar slides and a delicate Velvet Underground keyboard solo. It’s brilliantly crafted pop song.
Mister is a fuzzy and crooked little rocker which changes pace several times. It shifts between stabby verses, a whirling singalong chorus and a fantastic break down. The Set Up is almost like a cut from Stephen Malkmus’s excellent ‘Face The Truth’ album. It has a lolloping pace, cryptic lyrics and delightful “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah” chorus, . The use of strings and backing vocals, with the “Run Run Run” fuzzed guitar ramble, is brilliant.
Title track Infinite Sprawling introduces new sounds. It samples frogs, has cute digital percussion and lightly flanging guitar. It’s oddball, slightly psychedelic, intricate yet simple – straight from the Nilsson school of thought. Despite all these American references there is still something very British about Robert Sotelo.
After all, Nilsson was known as the fifth Beatle and Sotelo’s melodic sensibilities share that McCartney catchiness.
The simple rhythmic and melodic shifts throughout these mostly sub-three minute songs are a joy. Run seems to bounce and sway at the same time. The guitars, played on here by Ruari Maclean of Vital Idles and Edwin Stevens of the brilliant Irma Vep and The Birthmarks, are noodling delicately at one point, lightly riffing the next, chiming like Silver Jews then sliding like the Kinks. Sotelo’s always light and chipper vocals just float on top.
The chirpy church organ stomp of In the Style of is beautifully constructed. Roof is perhaps the most ridiculous song on Infinite Sprawling, with the guitars and bass following an ear worm of a vocal melody and rhythm, funny little fills, underwater flange effects and loungey pastiche parts. You cannot listen to this without smiling.
Piece of Cake is a hip shaking ode to cooking that flirts with chamber pop and the sophisto-cartoonishness of Stereolab.
Sotelo peppers songs with little curve balls.
For example, the Road Runner rock n roll of Battery. This slips in some bizarre Sgt Pepper backward vocal conversation samples just when you think you have it pegged.
Finally, Message Of Beauty is a gorgeous, delicate closer. It slowly builds to a refrain of strings and backing vocals, with heavily reverbed (that’s not a word, is it) slide guitar which all combine to stunning effect.
At just 29 minutes ‘Infinite Sprawling’ is short but you may find yourself playing this on repeat, er, infinitely.
You may enjoy this if you like: Harry Nilsson, Stephen Malkmus, Rozi Plain, The Velvet Underground, Of Montreal, Silver Jews, Danielson, The Beatles, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci