Repelican with Friends is the latest album from Repelican, the pseudonym used by producer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist Jon Ehrens. Each track except the last is a collaboration between Ehrens and another musician, many of whom have been good friends for years. The result is an eclectic pop mosaic of classic sounds and genres.
With a career that covers multiple decades, a dozen and a half solo albums and many more as a collaborator or producer, Ehrens had more than enough connections and ideas to bring a collaborative album to life. According to a press release, Ehrens said that most of the work on this album was done by sending tracks back and forth between the collaborators, adding to it piece by piece.
His extensive and varied career that spans from DC to Philly to Vermont also brings a variety of sounds and styles to the table, blended with nine different collaborators’ individual sensibilities. Tracks “Wrong End of the Rise (with Tom Vollmer)” and “Smoke Signals (with Cara Satalino)” are fun, folk-country tunes that could be equally comfortable on college radio and on country playlists, with roots in country and a psychedelic sheen. “Still Feel Close (with Bakithi Kumalo)” is warm and catchy enough to earn a spot in any self-respecting indie movie, and “City of Vapors (with Owen Gardner)” throws it back the art pop kings of the 70s: the Byrnes, the Bowies, and the Enos.
Other tracks like “Oh My God (with Giant Wave)” and “All Our Heroes (with Sam Herring)” add more electricity to the equation. Vocal reverb and synths lend these a cool, bluesy feel to start the record off and set the tone for the genre-mixing still to come. Later, interludes like “Site of the Explosion (with Nour Mobarak)” and “Oceanic Feeling (with Soft Pink Truth)” reveal a more experimental side, and “Dividing Myself (with Elephant Micah)” provides a dark and creepy seventh-inning stretch to rinse out some of the sweetness.
The record ends with a solo track, a lo-fi folk song that feels like a bonus track in its intimacy. Between the lyrics “How do I stop lookin’ behind with everybody sayin’ no?” and the soft crackling effects, “I’m Not One” certainly feels like a farewell to friends.
And although variety is part of what makes this album so novel and fresh, it is this reflective quality that gives it cohesion. It is a mark of maturity to collaborate with nine different artists from separate compartments of one’s life and still retain artistic identity. Having done so, for Repelican, this reflection feels natural. It’s familiar. It’s home.
Repelican with Friends was released today, February 5, 2021 and is available on Bandcamp.