Let’s Build A Fire | Absolutely Kosher
By MIKAEL WOOD  |  November 28, 2006
3.0 3.0 Stars

SPLIT PERSONALITY: James Baluyut’s +/- split the difference between Death Cab for Cutie and Timbaland.

Absolutely Kosher | James Baluyut honed his indie-rock chops playing guitar in his older brother Richard’s mid-’90s band Versus, an underrated outfit whose lean, sexy jangle would’ve been well served by the blogosphere’s sponsorship. As the frontman of his own group, the obtusely named +/-, Baluyut shares his sibling’s sophisticated melodic sense. Several cuts on +/-’s third full-length —the country-tinged “The Important Thing Is To Love,” the shuffling “Summer Dress 2 (Iodine)” — feature tunes sturdy (and dreamy) enough to satisfy a Death Cab for Cutie fan. But Let’s Build a Fire is also full of moments that suggest Baluyut has grown tired of the straightforward indie-rock approach. In “Steal the Blueprints,” he layers a pretty acoustic-guitar figure over nature-sound field recordings, then interrupts the pastoral groove with dirty fuzz bass and a burst of processed percussion. And on “One Day You’ll Be There” he chops up trebly electric guitars the way Timbaland might if let loose on the Teenbeat catalogue. Baluyut’s attempt to negotiate those two impulses gives +/-’s music a tension you don’t hear in stuff by many of his peers.

+/- + Ho-Ag + Helms + Cinemechanica + Tristan Da Cunha | Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge | December 1 | 617.864.EAST

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