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We Walk The Young Earth

The Blithe Sons
We Walk The Young Earth
(Family Vineyard Records)

The Blithe Sons have created a folk album that sounds like it was made especially for Rip Van Winkle. Using a bevy of interesting equipment (battery-powered amps and keyboards), the duo recorded this entire release on location in old World War 2 bunkers and under a creek bridge. It's a release that's both minimal and yet very layered, and one that just sort of falls around you like abandoned cobwebs.

A couple of the above statements may seem like I'm being disparaging, but I'm really not. This is an album of drone-folk music played out to the most narcoleptic ends, and it's one of those releases where recording location becomes something in and of itself. It's as far away as possible from a pristine studio shine, yet it somehow doesn't sound nearly as hissy or lo-fi as you'd imagine it to be, instead just radiating a warm ambience that would be pretty hard to match without going through the same process. Imagine if you could put a microphone inside your head and record the sound as you alternately fell asleep and had heat-induced bits of surreal lucid dreaming as you laid in a field somewhere while world-weary folk played in a boombox just out of reach. In 5 tracks and 52 minutes, this album does something similar.

"The Book Of Names" opens the release, and it builds ever-so-slowly (as all tracks on the release do, averaging well over 10 minutes each), with quiet plucks of acoutic guitar as background drones wheeze and birds can be heard chirping. Eventually, some wounded vocals creep into the mix, and the whole track just sort of sways and swoons before falling apart in the same way that it built up. "Green Patterns" takes a somewhat similar route, as chimes and more guitar are layered over some metalic droning shapes and drums patter around like an irregular heartbeat. Again, the track doesn't build to any huge crescendo, instead just sort of morphing and slowly shifting in and out of hazy focus.

While the group has things in common with slow-core artists like Low and Damon and Naomi, The Blithe Sons take things to the natural extreme most of the time in their tracks. The 18-minute "The Oldest Living Things" is proof positive of that, as instruments reverb out in their natural environment. Branches are shaking, spoons and utensils clang around, and slow pulses of drone and vocals (even the quiet huffing of wind against the microphone and planes flying overhead) all swirl into a coagulated recording that is more about capturing those particular moments than creating something you can hum along with. Of course, all this will be maddening to some listeners, because even though there's a lot going on, there's not a lot going on in a short amount of time. It's more about subtle shifts in things that can't even be controlled, but for that same reason it's also rather compelling. Definitely not for everyone, this is droning folk music that acts like an aural narcotic.

Rating: 7