On The Three Things You Can Hear, Seamus Cater primarily uses a vintage duet concertina, carefully restored from dusty-junk-shop-condition by Cater himself. The instrument’s unusual sound dominates the record, although instrumental guests Johnny Chang and The International Nothing add plenty as well. Edition of 300, on Nearly Not There Records.
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God bless the self-explanatory. Seamus Cater has made an album and the first thing he would like you to know is how: on “Crabb 9807” he plays his vintage concertina while explaining that it is one, as well as where he found it, when it was made, and many more cool instrument facts. It’s very nice of him to tell a story with his sorta song, sorta drone thing. Who needs a press release when your music is this candid?
‘The Three Things You Can Hear’ is a real friendly record and eventually expands into a roster of viola, clarinet and bass, making these chirper, largely soundscapes fuller and more expectant for Cater’s voice. He flits in and out quite absent-mindedly, which is fitting considering the loose, sprase drones playing out below him. The loveliest thing about the record is Cater’s penchant for sudden melodic clarity: he foresees a quick massage of real song amidst the kind of ambient stillness the Sly & Unseen are renowned for, and suddenly his vocal will meet a quick flourish, or an oscillating instrument. It’s rather Richard Youngs, circa ‘Under Stellar Stream’ -- the kind of songs that wake up, quite accidentally, onto their own magic.
These are lovely pieces that I daren’t call songs too much, so how about half-songs? It’ll have to do for “Lunora”, which sounds like a bedroom pop artist’s idea of Arthur Russell if he had a concertina and vibraphone; it sort of tethers together two bits of music on different sleeping schedules. And I think it best fits “The Foreshift”, where keyboard trembles at the thought of having to develop into something, and Cater intervenes like he’s reproaching it. ‘The Three Things You Can Hear’ gorgeous and weird, and it feels like an accident happening on purpose -- which is kinda what happens when you buy a random instrument from an old dusty shop, isn’t it?
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