Fruition, together now for a decade, is one of the many gems of the burgeoning Portland, OR music hotbed. What began as mostly an acoustic string band has evolved into a multi-faceted roots-rock unit capable of soul, psychedelia, and catchy pop. The binding force is the engaging three-part harmony from Jay Cobb Anderson (lead guitar, harmonica), Kellen Asebroek (rhythm guitar, piano) and Mimi Naja (mandolin, guitar), all of whom are songwriters too. Along with their rhythm section of bassist Jeff Leonard and drummer Tyler Thompson, they’ve moved on from acclaimed producer Tucker Martine to more of a DIY approach helmed by Thompson. The two companion pieces, Wild As the Night and the brand new Broken At the Break of Day were recorded in between tour dates as Thompson’s newly constructed studio. He produced, mixed and engineered as well.
As mentioned, their work doesn’t easily fit into one box, but the songwriting and the harmonies tie their diverse influences together. For example, “Counting the Days” is a poignant love letter, while “For You” shows the exasperation of maintaining a relationship on the road. The band’s most electrifying rock moment, “Do What You Want,” is then followed by “Nothing More Than Spinning,” which sounds like a folk song interpreted by Queen. The stunning vocal blend heard in the opening “Dawn” and in the closing “At the End of the Day” are the kind of harmonies to die for. They have a knack for hooks too, best exemplified in the rhythms of “Where Can I Turn.”
“This process was the quickest the band had ever written and recorded the songs,” Thompson says. “All the songs obviously fit either a ‘day’ or ‘night’ theme, but the whole rehearsing and recording process had to be done in about half the amount of time we were used to. That time limitation leant us to not overthink things, play instinctually and all live in the studio with very minimal overdubs. All the songs are very different, but I think the speedy process naturally created some sonic congruency.”
“From a visibility standpoint, being able to release more music more often—even if it is in smaller doses—is ideal in the new frontier of digital music that we have found ourselves smack dab in the middle of,” Asebroek says. “It’s nice to be able to stay on people’s radar, in an age where people have instant access to the whole of music history at their fingertips. It’s also nice to put these out together on vinyl as a nod to the way things once were.”
Naturally, most of the previous Wild As The Night employs a beautifully less is more approach, with sparse but precise use of instrumentation setting the stage for the vocals and lyrics to shine in the spaces between. On “Don’t Give Up On Me,” the rhythm section shines with their light groove. On “Manzanita Moonlight,” Mimi Naja’s mandolin sparkles amidst guitar and piano to create graceful melodies. Kellen Asebroek’s affecting lead vocals head off the surreal blend of folk and jazz-pop on “Sweet Hereafter,” while Naja and her unmistakably unique voice take the lead on the gorgeous title track. It’s emotional, musically bright in places, and somehow, as the band undoubtedly intended, comes off rather understated and spontaneous.
Put the two together or listen to them as one for a musical potpourri that showcases one of the most harmonious bands in today’s big tent that we call Americana.