Saturday, 6 March 2010

Black Forest/Black Sea - 'Radiant Symmetry' (Last Visible Dog)

The duo of Black Forest/Black Sea clearly did some traveling (outside of their native Providence) in 2004, because Radiant Symmetry feels like a tour diary. Three of the nine tracks feature the band alone, while the rest is abundant with guest musicians, and the unnamed tracks are listed by where they were recorded. Despite being taken from a bunch of live recordings, this is edited together quite well. Most of the pieces flow together, and a few times you wouldn't guess that you were jumping from country to country. There are a few times when I start to get bored by the thick bed of cello and guitar notes, although it's a pleasant, welcoming sound. Nick Talbot's acoustic guitar is a welcome addition to the Bristol session, and grounds it just enough to keep things from devolving into that noodly neo-folk experimentalism that often knocks me unconscious. There are a few moments of real tension, particularly in the opening track recorded with Glasgow musicians from Volcano the Bear, Nalle, and Traveling Bells (though in 2004 before those latter two project existed). Here the five musicians are all pulling away from each other and it's a pretty intense way to open the disc, suggesting things to come which actually don't. The final track, recorded in Stoke-on-Trent, is thickened with an Indian harmonium and it somehow is the most focused and most meandering track of the disc. While I'm tempted to get impatient and the musical noodlings, the waves of cello and harmonium keep pulling me back under the surface. As a document of communication and music exchange, probably particularly significant to them as it chronicles their friends, this is probably an important disc. For the rest of us, I'm not sure it's the most necessary recording ever, as its inconsistency makes it occasionally frustrating. But I'm no hater so this remains in the Elbow Cinderblock Glass Mastered Constructor Bag, cause you never know when you might want to dip yourself in its sonic tar.

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