Co-released on Time Lag and Indian Queen Records, & Hope Still is the debut album from one Silent Land Time Machine, a one-man recording project of a fellow from Texas who has managed to teach himself how to play a lot of different instruments and build up a beguiling little album with some crafty layering and subtle shifts in sound that call to mind a ton of different artists but doesn't really sound like any one of them in particular.
There's acoustic guitar, viola and violin, accordion, piano, some hand-percussion, piano, and some other random noise makers (and some occasional wordless vocals), and the result is seven warm tracks that never get too dense and manage to unfold gracefully while revealing new layers at regular intervals. Because of the instrumentation involved, there's a palatable connection to a variety of Constellation Records artists. One can hear a bit of the quiet moments of Do Make Say Think, a tinge of the more organic Polmo Polpo, and maybe a little bit of Silver Mt. Zion if they weren't so damn serious.
"Everything Goes To Shit" kicks things off and is easily among the best tracks on the release as see-sawing violins weave back and forth with some stomping percussion and wheezy accordion as background vocals kick in and make the whole thing rise into a frenzy over the course of eight minutes that sounds like a true community back-porch hoe-down blowout. "The Thing This Doesn't Mean Is Nothing" takes many of the same elements and splays out over more than ten minutes, with some beautiful trilled guitar parts that fade into a string-driven bridge and finally some slightly-filtered percussive breakdown that again adds a delightful rhythmic element to the mix.
Even though it's very organic in feel, most of the tracks on & Hope Still develop in very loop-based ways. Pieces like "Down The Hill" work in additive and subtractive ways, bringing in layers slowly then taking away things to leave the listener in a slightly different place than where they started. It's at its best when it incorporates all angles, as it does on album-closer "Copperpot Topography," as harsh feedback swells mingle with delicate vocals, acoustic guitars, muffled rhythms, a rough string quartet and some minor processing. A very solid debut, this one is worth seeking out if any of the above tickles your fancy.