Based on the song title alone, listeners may expect Jesse Rundle’s “Captain Profundo” to be some sort of psychedelic musical trip, but they couldn’t be more wrong. This is a folk song, through and through, with some modern adornments helping ground it in the present. “Captain Profundo” isn’t purist folk, a musical butterfly trapped under glass, but rather artsy without ever risking pretentiousness. It is the second single from his soon to hit album release Radishes and Flowers. The songs are inspired by American poet Wallace Stevens’ work but they aren’t literal adaptations – this isn’t simply Stevens’ words with some casual music accompaniment. The creative energy Rundle clearly expends setting Stevens’ words in a musical setting makes these songs his own – it is as if Stevens is a deceased collaborator rather than the focal point of the song. I expect this is true for the album as well.
Rundle’s voice has a lot of musical value. There are vocal harmonies complimenting his lead vocal, but he inhabits the tune in such a way that his performance is the unquestionable heart of the performance. There’s a wistful, dream-like touch with how he handles the lyrics, but he also clearly understands what Stevens attempts to convey through his writing and his vocals shape his interpretation in a dramatic, yet understated, way. He matches up nicely with the guitar work and other musical touches.
There is a smattering of percussion out front during the song’s first half, but the second half highlights guitar work and melodic embellishments. There is a gossamer like electronic sheen glistening in the song’s foreground but it never casts an omnipresent shadow over the song. The spartan focus Rundle brings to the song covers every possible base and the production has an uniform excellence that brings the track’s array of elements to vivid life. Rundle is mindful, as well, of the listener’s attention span and never allows this single to bite off anymore than it can chew.
Adapting poetry into the folk song idiom isn’t a particularly revolutionary move on its surface, but flying that flag in the music world of 2019 is a relatively audacious stroke. You never feel like there’s anything obscure or over your head about this pairing of substantive poetry and music; “Captain Profundo” is accessible from the first and this is a testament to his compositional talents; there aren’t melodies announcing themselves in bold ways, but the track is nonetheless a pleasant listening experience and his understated melodic talents are apparent. This helps remove any potential obstacles posed by bringing written poetry and music together.
Radishes and Flowers may be one of 2020’s most interesting releases. Jesse Rundle’s “Captain Profundo” breezes over listeners, but you find the song lingering long after its final notes vanish and Rundle successfully invokes tremendous atmospherics without ever lapsing into a heavy handed approach. Idahoan Jesse Blake Rundle is a compelling folk singer/songwriter possessing compelling artistry and a deceptive amount of ambition – these qualities are highlighted with this new single “Captain Profundo”.