Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Smoldering Ashes – Nervous Constellations

Much of this cd is the great album the Cure should have made between Faith and Seventeen Seconds but didn’t. Same watery guitar, same dark pensive sensibility, but none of the affectations. This collaboration between Oklahoma musicians Veronica Ashe and Troy Troutman and 17 Pygmies guitarist Jeff Brennman and drummer Dirk Doucette bridges the gap between 80s goth like This Mortal Coil and Dead Can Dance and nouveau psychedelia in the sense that its ambience is warm and draws you in. Ashe’s voice has an offhand beauty not unlike indie acoustic siren Linda Draper, and the two share a terse, imaginatively playful lyricism (do they know each other?).

 

After a brief, pensive opening track spiced with some raw harmonica playing, there’s the marvelous A Comedy of Arrows. Bouncing along on a deliciously watery chorus-box bassline straight out of the Laurence Tolhurst playbook, packed with big boomy chords, it’s catchy beyond words. The following two cuts, Shenfinity and Sea Blue are a study in contrasts, the first a beautiful 6/8 reflection, the second reverting to Robert Smith style new wave pop. The next track, 1000 Birds Scatter is slow and ambient with bluesy lead guitar and a striking tempo shift on the bridge. Other standout tracks on the cd include Duct Tape and Superhero Love, a dead ringer for legendary Australian art-rockers the Church with its lush, echoey layers of guitar; The City Electric, which gets totally psychedelic with a water-droplet effect (echoes of Country Joe and the Fish, maybe?); and the beautifully deliberate, tastefully orchestrated Temporary Archive. “I believe in chaos, a chance on a mystery bus tour,” Ashe announces matter-of-factly. The cd concludes with the brief, evocatively carnivalesque Kite:

 

The carnival’s come and it’s time to say

Goodbye, cruel world…

Hello to spring, take off the mask

Put on your face

So long, string

Time to see you you fly

 

An aptly optimistic note on which to close this marvelously captivating cd, best experienced on earphones late at night.

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November 18, 2008 - Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , , , ,

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