Moletav Cocktail

26 July 2012 | 5:15 am | Jason Kenny

"Everything’s in the two guitars and voices. Isn’t that what makes the Everly Brothers so great?"

An album a year from prolific, quietly spoken songwriter Benedict Moleta is not out of the ordinary. In fact, it's almost become tradition in this town. His latest record Singleton, however, has arrived even more quickly, barely ten months after the release of the 2011 volume, White Marble Heyday.

Singleton's speedy arrival is due in part to its stripped-back arrangements. Moleta's previous few releases saw him collaborate with a full band. When Moleta wrote the songs that were to become Singleton, he felt they suited a more minimal approach.

“There's a lot of room for flexibility and dynamism if you've only got one other person playing the song with you,” he says. “Especially when you're playing live. With no drums and no bass, everything is melodic and rhythmical at the same time. Everything's in the two guitars and voices. Isn't that what makes the Everly Brothers so great?”

Indeed, it is. And so Moleta set to work with minimal arrangements. Everything about this record is aimed at keeping things simple, down to recording the vocals and his own guitar with just one microphone. It was recorded over two weekends, with tracks appearing in the order the songs were written. He played the songs to friends Scott Tomlinson, Bill Darby and Andrew Ewing. They picked the ones they wanted to play on and the record began to be born.

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Those familiar with Moleta's body of work will notice the album covers are the same black font on white, with a list of the collaborators at the bottom. The songs for each release benefit from the collaborative process.

“I like playing with new people,” Moleta says. “It keeps the songs developing, shows me new things which weren't apparent in the initial melodic or lyrical ideas. Initially I worked on five songs with Bill, five with Andrew and two with Scott. I played them all the songs and they picked the ones they thought they could work with best. There's a fair bit of variety from track to track – you can really feel the presence of different guitar players on the album.”

The collaborators on Singleton all have their own projects and bands.

“It's great working with people who have strong musical personalities – that's what I'm attracted to, rather than chasing some kind of stylistic compatibility or shared musical tastes. All the people on this album are songwriters themselves, with their own conceptions of where a song might go, how it can change, how something surprising might be discovered inside it.”

Extra vocals are also added by Miranda Pollard, no stranger to readers of this magazine. It was her voice that attracted Moleta, rather than her resumé.

“I just knew that she was a great singer. I asked her if she wanted to give it a shot about a year before the recording sessions, but for one reason or another we only came together a couple of weeks before we recorded the songs. The first time we had a sing together it felt great – I've done a bit of harmony singing before, but this is the first time I've really felt inspired by singing in unison. We've done some shows as a duo recently and will be working on the next album together. It's exciting.”

Tomlinson, too, brought his own approach to the record.

“I've known Scott for ten years and have always liked his work. I've wanted to do something with him for ages. With the other guys I rehearsed the songs regularly over the course of 2011, but Scott preferred to work on the songs alone, using demo recordings. I think his approach was very measured and thoughtful. And the harmony singing he does on one of the songs is magic.”

They say the devil is in the detail, and when it's all stripped back, the details speak for themselves.