Look, while it’s never been a stretch to call insightful pop/rock musicians prophets. Yet one truly wonders if Atlanta based singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Sam Kempe – whose years of making music on the sidelines culminate in his ambient-folk-alt rock-dreampop persona Pinewood – knew something we didn’t when he penned a line like “Apprehend our thoughts into quarantine. . .things we think we’ll never know/In time, the river will show” on “Riverbank,” the soulfully dynamic, ultra-hypnotic track that launched his debut EP All Things With Symmetry?
To hear Sam tell it, the song’s free-flowing vibe and reflective, symbol-laden lyrics are inspired by the time he’s spent contemplating life by the Chattahoochee River. Using the river as metaphor, he wonders whether he’s meant to be a force to shape the landscape or let himself be shaped by it as he goes. Considering the sonic invention he brings to the indie music scene – including echoing vocals, kick snare drums and booming toms, deep bass grooves, gentle then aggressive strums and bright mandolin and banjo textues – I emphatically believe he’s here to make an impact with his powerfully original vibe.
In a single 4-track EP, he covers a great deal of emotional, sonically inventive territory. It’s the most impactful 18 minute musical therapy session ever! Pinewood’s second lead single “Onward,” is a percussive, tempo-shifting, atmosphere and banjo-laden rocker that artfully uses its musical variances to underscore the ups, downs, partings and makeups of a relationship that defiantly, and ultimately chooses to survive the emotional rollercoaster.
On “Constellations,” a moody, haunting and raw personal reflection on being lost and ultimately recovering from alcohol abuse, Pinewood builds from a thoughtful innocence to a tense crescendo full of emotional release before closing with a calmer sense of acceptance. He closes with the expansive, meditative title track, which through a blend of curiosity, wonder, defiance and grace deftly chronicle his evolution from religious doubt stemming from childhood psychological trauma to finding inner peace by acknowledging that “I just need to retrace my steps.”
Here’s hoping his emergence from years of making music as a sideman in other bands proves equally liberating and inspirational over time.