The self-titled debut from James Martin (no relation to the writer) & Medianoche is finely crafted wallpaper, but it’s wallpaper nonetheless, content to hang unobtrusively in a room, engaging only those actively paying attention to it. Opener “Midnight in Mexico” immediately establishes the pattern repeated throughout the record: technically proficient classical-guitar swirls put in bas-relief by an understated bass undercurrent and accented by energetic but intermittent percussion. The Gregorian interjections haunting “Between Two Hearts” are about the biggest deviation; there are no experimental zigzags or childish crayon squiggles defacing the décor. It’s pleasant, even elegant, and embellished with Latin-music influence subtle and non-specific enough to keep the Minutemen from fleeing the dentist’s waiting room, but unless you’re the type who headbangs to “Classical Gas” this album seems destined to dissolve into your periphery. But it can really tie the room together.
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