Salt, sketches, caves and cosy cushions

Salt, sketches, caves and cosy cushions

Four foreign records for the fall

By Benjamin Smith

So the serpent has been slain – the venomous, endless summer of 2012. Somehow we survived the toil and trouble. Zounds! Let us now bask in the crisp calm of autumn. There’s a turbulent election coming of course, but hush: we need a break from chaos. Early fall is the time of swirling leaves, acoustic chords, birds taking flight and shimmering synths at night. Drink the soothing tonic of these four foreign records, and you shall see visions of gentle mystery, minor genius. The bewitching begins…

Album: Sketches From New Brighton

Artist: Loscil

Label: Kranky

Release Date: September 2012

Country: Canada

Website: www.loscil.ca

Perfect with: Meditation, Marijuana

New Brighton, for all you geography junkies, is a park in Vancouver. According to ambient artist Loscil (Scott Morgan), this space “borders industry and the Vancouver port authority and lays claim to being the birthplace of the city … These are my impressions, a kind of sketch of New Brighton and the surrounding area in an abstract form.” Based on these nine electronic instrumentals, we can deduce the park is a pretty and peaceful place, a source of solace for mild-mannered robots and single moms sustained by green tea. Opener “Khanamoot,” named after the First Nations designation for the area, flows seamlessly into “Hastings Sunrise,” which itself flows further through New Brighton’s conceptual history and space. Every once in a while we spy a ripple of smooth jazz or subdued Kraftwek, yet overall Sketches drifts along in a pleasant formless blur. It’s the best of current chilled tranquility.

Album: Haunt Me Sweetly

Artist: House of Cosy Cushions

Label: Outcast Cats

Release Date: September 2012

Country: Holland/Ireland

Website: www.houseofcosycushions.com

Perfect with: Black Coffee, Black Thoughts

Alas, House of Cosy Cushions is not an obscure geriatric porno. Instead, it is a sonic collective led by one Richard Bolhuis, a Dutch artist who writes melancholy tunes and sings a little like a sad – though ultimately a much more normal – Marilyn Manson. The new LP Haunt Me Sweetly succeeds in being ideal listening for a season of reaping, lurching from Elliot Smith/Evan Dando-esque strums (“May”) to funeral dirges (title track “Haunt Me Sweetly”) to hashish holes (“Cut a Rug”). Even a song entitled “In the Morning Sun” feels sepulchral. Life has not always been roses and wine for Mr. Bolhuis, apparently. Still, the record is certainly worthy of repeat playing, if only to savor the clipped “Wings,” on which our poor chap sings about blackberries and black cats before confessing, “She can make me laugh, she can make me be careless and happy.” Hopefully, she’s alive and not buried in some Dutch basement.

Album: A Lighter Weight, A Stronger Back

Artist: Salt Supply

Label: Esc Rec

Release Date: Sept. 12, 2012

Country: The Netherlands

Website: www.escrec.com

Perfect with: Road Trips, Reflections

To be completely candid, I know almost nothing about Salt Supply. I stumbled upon A Lighter Weight, A Stronger Back by sheer accident while spelunking through some odd grottos on the Internet. This collection of 14 songs released last month – but recorded way back in 2004, before the Great Recession swallowed all optimism – is a poignantly soft post-rock relic that can remind the listener of vanished trends and times. “A Day To Order” could be mistaken for a Mogwai B-side, whereas “Tomorrow’s Final Cut” steals from Radiohead’s Hail To The Thief. Even more dated are the acoustic wisps of Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens found in a few of the tracks. Music can’t physically transport us back to the past; however, it can provide a soundtrack for traveling in the present, and here is where A Lighter Weight reveals real value. Burn or download, hop in a car, press play and head straight for Ohio’s deserted country roads. You’re already lost, anyway.

Album: Votive Life

Artist: Cave Painting

Label: Third Rock

Release Date: September 2012

Country: United Kingdom

Website: www.cavepaintingmusic.com

Perfect with: Flirting, Firelight

Before, paleolithic artists created vivid images using incredibly basic of tools, such as charcoal. The aptly named Cave Painting have followed suit on their debut album. Neither ground-breaking nor nostalgic, Votive Life nevertheless summons an ageless sense of beauty, yearning and wonder using bits and pieces of fairly standard fare: Doves, Sigur Rós, early Coldplay, Bombay Bicycle Club, Foals and – on the its finest track, “Pair Up” – even classic Cyndi Lauper. Yet what makes the album truly shine in the dark sky of modern music is its feel: drummer Jonathan McCawley sets a semi-tribal texture, guitarist Harry Smallwood and bassist Richard Snabel bring natural, epic grandeur, keyboardist Sam Simon colors with flickers and singer Adam Kane evokes ghosts of long-forgotten hope and passion. Primitive but exceptionally produced, Votive Life stands as one of the most moving, haunting records of the millennium.

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at BenjaminSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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