UNTIL RECENTLY, Mitch Easter has owed the bulk of his reputation to his abilities as a producer. One reason for this was the assistance he lent such groups as R.E.M. in his own Drive-In Studio in Winston- Salem, North Carolina; another was the almost complete obscurity accorded his last band, Sneakers (which also featured future dBs Chris Stamey and Will Rigby).

Now, however, Easter has a new band, Let's Active, and at the moment it seems likely that this will be the most enduring forum for his talents. As you might expect from a producer's band, the sound Let's Active presents on "Cypress," the group's first full album, is understandably studio-savvy, full of carefully layered overdubs, trick fadeouts and the sort of sonic detail inevitably described as Beatlesque. But though that adds a certain amount of sparkle to Let's Active's sound, it's the writing that makes "Cypress" really shine.

Not only has Easter allowed his influences to become subsumed by the band's indentity, but he has also learned how to write melodies that make the most of his vocal limitations, leaning on fragmented guitar lines and episodic arrangements for support. With each song taking the album from strength to strength, "Cypress" is guaranteed to impress.

LET'S ACTIVE -- "Cypress" (IRS SP 70648); appearing Friday and Saturday at the 9:30 Club with the dBs.