The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina – Act 3

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The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina – Act 3

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Ryan Shivdasani aims high with his songwriting. The tracks on Act 3 from his band The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina pops with the kind of verve we’d expect from a New York City musical export, but there’s an abundance of skill underlying the daring exhibited by this collection. The thirteen songs included on this release span a wide sonic and musical spectrum reflecting the variety of influences informing Shivdasani’s writing, vocals, and musicianship. The band sports a different lineup now, but Shivdasani selected top notch musicians to collaborate with on this recording and their talents clearly complement Shivdasani’s sometimes challenging compositions. One of the early successes on Act 3 comes with the track “Particle Craze” – Shivdasani’s vocals are drenched in echo, but the effects underscore the song’s mood rather than diluting its impact. The flashes of near flamenco acoustic guitar and crisp drumming are examples of standout playing, but the composition as a whole embodies the same wafting spectral quality suggested by Shivdasani’s singing.

“Watched You Out My Window” is a marquee number for a variety of reasons. Shivdasani’s lyrics are chiseled, each word weighed with some degree of significance, but leaving it in listener’s lap to suss out the song’s “meaning” or “story”. There’s a quasi electric folk sound defining the performance and the subsurface acoustic jangle pairs up nicely with the electric guitar chiming and weaving melodies over the top. A minimalist alternative rock vibe powers “East of Eden” during its verses and it gains unexpected drama from an unusual time signature. The song throws off its chains just after the two minute mark for a rousing payoff before segueing into an instrumental break where Shivdasani trades off musical volleys with heated keyboard runs.

“Enemy” is another seminal moment for this album thanks to the nuanced and understated threat Shivdasani and his band mates create in just under five minutes. Shivdasani’s strength as a songwriting, in part, lies in his ability to straddle a line between building clearly structured songs yet delivering the arrangements in a loose, open-ended sort of way. We are treated to a stark, notable departure with the smooth acoustic shuffle of “Slip Away” and the affectations shaping the earlier songs transforms, instead, into satisfying harmonies and glittering guitar work. Shivdasani, however, soon returns us to familiar terrain with the primal tumble moving “In This World, Not of It” and the tempo is oddly reflective given the song’s subject matter. The song’s extended instrumental break near the end of its conclusion carries the cut to greater heights and the frantic fusion crossed with a jam band ethos lights up the final lap of a nearly six minute song.

“There’s No Such Thing as God” definitely doesn’t mince its opinions for the listener’s sensitivity and evolves from punk ska verses into a romping, insistent chorus with the song’s “punchline” driven into the depths of your brain. The last song on the album leaving a deep mark on me comes with the second to last number “Blood Country” and its snake-like arrangement makes a number of improbable turns, including one into edgy jazz fusion before moving back into the skeletal yet intensely rhythmic central riff.. It’s a dark, violent lyric replete with images of murder and destruction delivered in a carefully modulated near deadpan that proves oddly effective. The song eventually revs up near the end to untenable speeds before ending in a “crash”. It’s easily one of the most impressive moments on an astonishingly diverse release and begs listeners to follow any future releases from Shivdasani and The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina.

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Jamie Morse

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