William James Fowler (Mesa Ritual) and James Jackson Toth (Wooden Wand) each imbue their music with the atmospheres of their respective home states New Mexico and Kentucky. The result, as heard on their debut collaboration, the Under Stars and Smoke LP, seems to be a mythic third landscape, expressed via bluegrass-drone. On Black Rainbow.
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Wherein the psychedelic man James Jackson Toth gets together with dark ambient man William Fowler Collins. In the mood to celebrate their full names, middle one and all, they eschew their usual sounds for one bright and beautiful, casting luminous lights over their imagined landscape -- one that bridges their respective homes of New Mexico and Kentucky. Though I’ve never been that far into the stately crater of America, ‘Under Stars and Smoke’ does speak to a meshing of atmospheres, positioning tonally wobbly synth drones against a folkie vocal that coos and crackles, imbued with a love for Vic Chesnutt.
It’s lovely, is this: “The Border” does very little, maintaining its long sustained synth at a steady volume and with little in the way of additives -- who do you think you are, some sort of busybody drone wiseguy? The story flits in and out as and when the singing is sung, with emphasis as much on pause as play -- it doesn’t feel stunted, because there’s this constant musical landscape for the next step to be taken on. Towards the backend, a noisier and earther drone rises in and eventually gives way for the swampy field ruminations of “The Memorial”.
Flip it over, why don’t you? “The Man Who Could Not Stay” sounds like someone’s taken those high, heartbroken strings from A Silver Mt. Zion and hung them on the clothesline: the track merely paces, getting more watery and more embedded with field recordings, but never stretching into a melody, which would be beyond its means. One of those records that’s almost tangible, but just about isn’t, so that’s fine. One of those records that makes static and crackle feel like good supper fodder.
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