A Grave With No Name is, obviously, not a cheerful project, but there is a stark beauty to Alexander Shields’ music under the name. Wooden Mask is a set of desolate experimental post-folk, “a meditation on renewal”. Vinyl and cassette editions are available, via the well-named Forged Artifacts label.
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Alexander Shields makes meek but massive music, a Mount Eerie lite in his approach to music that sounds like it shares the twin recording settings of a bedroom and a cavern. On the latest in his now quite storied career, he continues to whisper -- both in voice and strum -- into a medley of distortion and empty space.
It’s an understated and absent-minded record, but that’s where its magnificence is at: these tunes reveal scars in extremely choice moments, with the odd frenzied chord coming between simple acoustic arrangements. Cobbled marching beats eventually reveal themselves in bolder, clearer landscapes, as if Shields has been carrying himself up a mountain only to find a second peak. It’s ambient songwriting: it barely moves, but from its extreme intimacy it wrings enormous tension.
Choice moments see him Go For It in as much as he can, as on the gorgeously arranged “Wedding Dress”, which segues from its Vic Chesnutt-esque juxtaposition of sludge and serenity into the cello-doomed “Pirouette”. It’s a very realistic journey of a record: a lot of walking for a great deal of anecdotal reward.
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