Sunday, January 12, 2014

add 0708 Town and Country

The members of Town & Country shouldn't be doing what they're doing on the instruments they're using. A full orchestra of the highest caliber would risk bloodthirsty scrutiny for taking on these mathematical tone poems. However, if an ear can be slapped in the face, this acoustic quartet at least powders its palms before doing so. Rarely going above a raised whisper, this humble thorn of a quartet dares the Chicago-based Thrill Jockey label to rival the European aesthetics of ECM or the dry exclusivity of New Albion out of California. Sharing equal composer credits, Liz Payne, Josh Abrams, Jim Dorling, and Ben Vida pass acoustic instruments amongst each other to create something to intoxicate the critics and divide the general public's perception between what's brilliant and what's elitist. Tracks like "Going to Kamakura," "Garden," and "Palms" blossom patiently like Morton Feldman's "Rothko Chapel"; origami with dangling participles that never resolve, never quite fit neatly into themselves, but repeatedly catch the eye. "I'm Appealing" is a chromatic foray into minimalism à la John Adams and Terry Riley, with acoustic guitars infinitely rippling in loops that either madden or enlighten, depending on your perspective. "The Bells" is a rhythmic meditation of cornet and clarinet with string basses on either side. The structure of the piece fascinates and distracts, finding the natural cleft in the listener's brain and gradually burrowing into the subconscious, as Vida and Dorling fold their tones together like two hands in reverent prayer. "I Am So Very Cold" clips itself in precise syncopation, but loosens its grip to a more calm disposition around the two-thirds point (perhaps as the hypothermia kicks in). "Bookmobile" closes the disc, a kaleidoscopic, pulsing dialogue of early Pat Metheny six-string, handclaps, and plucked basslines refracting around Steve Reich clouds of tone. As an album, C'mon stays approachable throughout, as well as puzzling, brilliant, existentialist, mystifying, daring, intimate, warm, and enticingly incomplete. It's all things pure music can be, without an explanation. In a way that's all the better.

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