Although I first got wind of the label last year sometime, this is the year that Constellation really made their mark in my mind. Although they're known by many as the home label for the group Godspeed You Black Emperor (and they still release the vinyl for the group), the label also has many other acts that are amazing in their own right and although they only released half a dozen things this year, they've made up for quantity with quality.
Frankie Sparo is probably the newest signing to the label and while he has some elements in common with other releases to date, his stripped-down, haunting singer/songwriter tracks show that label expanding their sound as well. Musically, My Red Scare is one of the most spare and bleak discs that I've heard this year. Sparo uses a combination of very minimal guitars, strings, percussion and other atmospheric effects (including some eerie electronics) to back up his vocals that range from frail to defiant.
The album starts out with the very slow "Bastard Heart" on which Sparo offsets strums of guitar between acoustic and electric, as well as multi-tracking his own voice with only slight slight differences. The effect is very subtle in both cases, but it works very well in the restrained song, and even when a slight flourish of keyboards come in at the end, it doesn't disturb things at all. The second track starts off with a shard of feedbacked guitar before fading off into some more very slight keyboard twinklings and a quiet but rumbling background beat. Things again move along at a very deliberate pace and the understated but very nice instrumentation works very well alongside the great vocals.
In case you weren't sufficienty impressed by those in the first two tracks, Sparo doesn't dissapoint with any of the following songs either. "Diminish Me NYC" is an ode of both the joys and sadnesses of living in the big city while "A Citizen's Farewell" moves at such a languid pace that when he sings, "I declare Friday a beautiful day of the week" it can't help but sound severely tongue-in-cheek. Of all the tracks on the album, "Send For Me" is probably the most typical in song structure. It moves along with two different guitar parts (one droning, while the other one strums out a desolate part), drums, and bass along with the vocals of Sparo.
Overall, the album is a excellent collection of what I would possibly call dark, experimental folk music. It's like Sparo has taken traditional folk and then completely deconstructed it and added lots of new elements for something completely new. At some points, it sounds like some work by This Mortal Coil, yet it's different and interesting. If you're one who likes great lyrics and don't mind a bit of jagged compositions, Sparo will speak to you.