Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Adrift Off the Islets of Langerhans with Cousin Silas

This is a quiet, magical album – and its composer is generously giving it away as a free download. In his Yorkshire studio, ambient composer Cousin Silas has methodically been creating one fascinating series of soundscapes after another, a mix of desolate, chilly, Ballardian instrumentals and gently hovering, trance-inducing themes. Ironically, although his work is high-tech and heavily produced, the effect it creates is completely organic: he creates a vivid milieu and then sets you down there. His previous album Canaveral Dreams ranked high on our list of the best albums of 2010; this one drifts closer to pure ambience rather than the eerie keyboard themes that dominated that one. Although there is rhythm in his music, it tends to be glacial: the pace shifts so slowly that the changes creep up on you, an effect which is often psychedelic and sometimes…well, creepy.

The opening track sets the tone, a subtly shifting, echoey soundscape – in academic circles, this is known as horizontal music, whose changes occur in timbre and shading rather than with a melody that moves from one note to another and so forth. The one after that sets echoey, staccato, minimalist U2-style guitar rhythm (or what sounds like a guitar, anyway) against a drone. The Beauty of Loathing adds shifting ambience against more Edge guitar, which eventually builds to a catchy, galloping lick that runs over and over again.

The Lower Field on Ebbetts Farm and Tarnscape are studies on light/dark contrasts, the latter with tongue-in-cheek bird calls that pop in when least expected. The most ethereal composition here is the appropriately titled Empty Coastline, waves hitting the beach through a glass, darkly and distantly. Likewise, The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral creates an eerie, windswept atmosphere with distant mechanical allusions. Building from a murky drone to Pink Floyd-influenced loops, Upstream is the closest thing here to an actual rock-style melody. The album ends with The Loathing of Beauty, an actually quite pretty tone poem that sounds like a lute and harmonium in outer space, and the hypnotically repetitive title track – whales and a mellotron, maybe? As with everything he’s ever done, nothing is exactly as it seems with Cousin Silas. Download it while it lasts.

January 2, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, experimental music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 1/2/11

Still recovering from Friday night’s festivities? Not us. Furiously at work on putting together a brand-new NYC live music calendar for January and February, among innumerable other projects that you’ll see here soon. In the meantime, every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Sunday’s is #758:

Laura Cantrell – Live at Schubas

Laura Cantrell is not only this era’s most captivating country singer: as the “proprietress” of WFUV’s Radio Thrift Shop, she gave a valuable lift to thousands of obscure Americana artists who might have slipped under the radar if not for her. Cantrell’s otherworldly clear, pure voice goes straight back to another era, to Kitty Wells: it’s a potently gentle instrument. This album captures her at the top of her game with a tight backing band featuring lead guitar, mandolin and pedal steel: the sound is a little boomy, but her voice still resonates. It’s sort of a greatest-hits-live set: pretty much all her best songs, along with a killer version of Elvis Costello’s Indoor Fireworks. The irresistibly fetching, swaying backbeat midtempo numbers include Don’t Break the Heart, Do You Ever Think of Me, All the Same to You and the obscure A.P. Carter gem When the Roses Bloom Again, along with George Usher’s Not the Tremblin’ Kind, the title track from her groundbreaking 2000 full-length debut. But as much as Cantrell gets props for playing her A-list contemporaries’ songs, it’s her originals that stand out the most, particularly the bucolic Mountain Fern and the offhandedly chilling Churches off the Interstate. Most of her catalog, including this, is streaming at deezer; although it strangely doesn’t seem to have made it to the file-sharing sites, Cantrell still has it available at hers.

January 2, 2011 Posted by | country music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment