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Ben Davis

Ben Davis's solo work is Chapter 53 in the confounding case of the Angry Young Rockers Who Discovered Their Quiet Sensitive Sides (sounds like a Nancy Drew title from a parallel universe, doesn't it?). You may remember the fellow for his bombastic bass playing in several chaotic post-punk outfits, the now defunct Sleepytime Trio and the still active Milemarker. There's just a little of that in Davis's solo stuff -- the occasional huge snarling bass line and writhing white hot guitar -- but overall it's a decidedly different animal. Davis offers searching, highly personal lyrics in a plaintive, sweet voice over elegant arrangements which include upright piano, Rhodes, cello, lap steel, and acoustic guitar. Occasionally, weird synth loops and spooky guitars give the music a slightly paranoid new wave flavor (recalling Milemarker), but the tenor here is more sedate and the focus on the domestic, the smaller parts of life.

Why the change of pace? After the other members of Milemarker relocated from Chapel Hill to Chicago, Davis decided to stay behind to prepare for the imminent birth of his first child. Without his band mates, he began writing a number of quiet introspective songs on the piano. Eventually, he invited some friends to collaborate with him on them, and before long, he realized he had an album's worth of material, so he headed into the studio. Davis's solo debut, The Hushed Patterns of Relief, features drummer Jonathan Fuller of Engine Down and cellist Amy Domingues of Tsunami and Telegraph Melts.