Saturday, August 23, 2008

After the goldrush #46

The Declining Winter’s Goodbye Minnesota (Rusted Rail) is an ideal companion for entering the fall. As a matter of fact I think I’ve read four or five descriptions of this album and every single one of them pointed out the connection to this season. Anyway, what we have here is the solo musical project of Richard Adams, a co-founder of former Broken Face cover stars, Hood. Hood has always been the uncrowned tzars of finding the well-hidden gates between electronica, indie rock, dub and folk-induced pop minimalism. Goodbye Minnesota sounds quite a bit like mid-period Hood, like a mixture of Rustic Houses and Forlorn Valleys and The Cycle of Days and Seasons, which beyond praise basically means fall reveries draped in moody acoustic drone hypnotism. I am a sucker for this kind of rain-soaked, blurry soundscapes and if you like me still return to those Hood albums on a regular basis you can’t really go wrong with this one.

Robin Saville (one half of Isan) is another fellow with great sonic talent. Saville seems to share stylistic influences with Richard Adams and although Peasgood Nonsuch (Static Caravan) holds similarly strong visual qualities it’s also less organic and more clinical. Let’s just say that this lush, slow-moving disc is more of a winter record than a fall record. There’s some great stuff here though, like the minimal, repetitive melody of “…an Indoor Campsite” which I’d love to hear repeated in my head for the rest of the day. Electronics rustle alongside droning synth and from time to time warm, shimmering guitars comes gliding in to quite stunning effect. Not all of it is great but this one has been played a lot around here recently and that should probably tell you something.

Maine’s Arborea is the husband and wife combo of Shanti and Buck Curran and together they make classic British folk brought through an Appalachian filter. Although this self-titled disc on Fire Museum is all draped in forested history it’s still not too far away from the most traditional branch of the free folk scene that’s been bursting in recent years. It’s a desolate sound journey that sounds like the time of biting frost, cold northern winds, shining white snow and compact darkness. You can sense the weather slowly changing and suddenly it is here, another long winter. But the cold season that we like to refer to as winter is also something completely different. It’s the time of beauty, reflection and pondering.

The Australian Camera Obscura label offers another dive into the psych-folk waters with the release of Rusalnaia, the duo of Sharron Kraus and Gillian Chadwick. There are a lot of things to like about this record, but one in particular is the stunning vocal duets that really take these slightly ritualistic tales to an entirely different level. Not quite as haunting and trance-inducing as Comus and Spires That the Sunset Rise but they’re definitely in the same ballpark and it keeps growing with every listen.

I liked Canadian musician and instrument-builder Ryan Waldron’s Foxglove release under the Talugung moniker a lot but I think Under Humid Light (Harha-askel) might be even better. This is an exciting musical journey that goes from abstract, slightly folk-tinged drones to exotic string plucking and Sun City Girls-like field recordings from all over the globe. It’s a downcast sound affair overflowed with organic beauty that covers a lot of ground and change direction from track to track, but the overall result is simply pure genius. What we need now is some enterprising label to see the potential of this fellow and let him record and build weird instruments for the rest of his (and mine) life.

Bollywood Steel Guitar is another instalment in the always-amazing Sublime Frequencies series of peripheral folk music (if I ever use the term world music to describe this kind of stuff, can someone please remind me to shoot myself?). I guess the title and label pretty much says all you need to know about this but let’s just add that it’s surprisingly groovy and infectious. I am not going to single out any particular tracks, just strongly recommend you to do what you already know, get every single Sublime Frequencies release you can get your hands on before they’re all out of print.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pelt Dauphin Elegies (VHF)

I know that writing about Virginia’s Pelt probably means preaching to the already converted, but after seeing these guys’ phenomenal set at Terrastock 7 nothing can ever stop me from spreading the gospel about their work. Their most recent album on the always-impressive VHF imprint is a droning affair that moves across a plane of acoustic unease, devotional noise –improv and spiritual, corrosive resonance. The first two tracks display jarring gongs and drifting tones that give way to screeching strings, but what really sets the standard here is the epic third track, “Cast Out to Deep Waters”. This is 32 minutes of sonic enlightenment at its finest, with dense layers of slowly unfolding, slightly exotic drones that come packed with anxious beauty of isolation and doubt. It’s a spectacular procession of aural bliss that actually gets close to the live experience, and that is definitely saying something. When it’s time to move across the line to the other side I can’t think of a better companion than Pelt.