There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Jud Ehrbar’s creative well must go all the way to China. In 1996, he was simultaneously the lead vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer for Space Needle and the tireless skin beater for Varnaline, not to mention an independent film scorer. But Ehrbar somehow managed to record several hours of his own music on the side. He dubbed his one-man band Reservoir and released a sober, self-titled collection of instrumentals, the soundtrack for a life spent staring out of a window. On Pink Machine, Reservoir changes direction, and Ehrbar does some staring in. Although he’s still four-tracking, his instrumental soundscapes have opened up to make way for vocal-oriented pop songs. He has written eight beautiful, graceful love notes, but his mixing in of weird sounds and broken breakbeats keeps the record from becoming too sentimental. “Go Back” opens to the long strains of what sounds something like an electronic didgeridoo. It’s downright disturbing until Ehrbar’s sweet voice steals in, singing over a snappy hiphop drum loop. He tackles ’80s synth-pop in “Let’s Fall in Love Again,” and “Right There,” and the fusionesque groove of “Air Coryell” stakes out new territory in outer space. Although he often can’t resist a Moog or wah-wah, Ehrbar knows how to restrain himself. His best instrument is often his voice, and songs like “Weight of the World” and the title track show him to be a touchingly personal singer. In Ehrbar’s noise machine, the sound most clearly rendered is that of a breaking heart.Cathy Alter