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Clear Horizon

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Album Review

This album gives a new definition to the term "mail art." Ohio songwriter Jessica Bailiff and British electronica maven Dave Pearce have issued their collective, self-titled debut statement on the Kranky label after creating it via mailed tapes over the course of two years. Bailiff has issued three albums under her own name, all of them on Kranky. Pearce has released numerous recordings of his own compositions and mixes, some of them dodgy, Ibiza-styled affairs. Neither of them has been here before. Both participants play guitars, keyboards, use effects and sundry percussion instruments. Bailiff's quiet, low-key yet tense songwriting is recognizable here, but barely. These haunted songs, such as "Death's Dance," with its droning electric guitars and white noise washouts employed elementally and incrementally, create a tension that refuses to resolve itself, placing the listener on the rough edges of something formative, not quite realized but compelling nonetheless. "Millennium Blues," with its whispering acoustic guitars gradually entering into a wash of seeming ocean sounds could be from an Ennio Morricone soundtrack. Pearce's vocals come from the center of the ether to painstakingly, slowly, articulate poetic reflections on the state of life as knew it.. "Dusk" is unsettling it in use of open-tuned guitars left ringing as their sound is manipulated, distorted, and turned into a whistle-like drone before the sounds of the strings extend the textural balance once more, just before the close — and then not entirely. The big drum loops and from-the-center-of-a-wind-tunnel vocals at the heart of "Open Road" send the album spiraling out on a near anthemic note, and leave the listener displaced, somehow no wiser, yet deeply moved by the entire experience. Transatlantic collaboration and the wonders of electronic tape have made for a very fine and original debut.

Clear Horizon, Clear Horizon
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