Published Mar 20, 2020This past holiday season, former Hollerado frontman Menno Versteeg spent nine days holed up in a Reno hotel room, taking some alone time after a difficult year in his personal life. He brought his first guitar and an old four-track tape recorder and eventually emerged with the seven songs that make up Reno Tapes, his debut release as Mav Karlo.
The resulting EP is a big change from the souped-up power pop that Hollerado fans are used to hearing from Versteeg. The sound here is slow, sad and defiantly lo-fi, with nylon-string guitar strums supported by nothing more than rinky-dink drum machines and clouds of swampy echo.
It's a small-scope project, but it achieves beauty with its mix of gloom and wry humour. "Stop Having Kids" puts an atmospheric spin on campfire folk, with cheeky lyrics advising assholes not to procreate, while the hook-filled "Shakedown" describes pawning off personal possessions in a way that's both nihilistic and funny.
Despite the project's modest sonic parameters, the excellent "There in the Morning, There in the Night" hints at something grander. With an effortlessly triumphant chord progression and understated sing-along chorus, it sounds like a rock anthem in the making; think of it like a demo version of the Beta Band's "Dry the Rain."
From its murky sonics to its 21-minute runtime, Reno Tapes is a humble, unpretentious debut. For a songwriter whose long-running rock band recently came to an end, this is a promising beginning to a new chapter. (Royal Mountain Records)