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Unknown Spin

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Album Review

Finally there is a "real" release of this Charalambides classic thanks to Chicago's Kranky label. Orignally recorded in May 2002, Unknown Spin was issued in a limited-edition run of 300 on CD-R (with a track by bandmembers Christina Carter and Heather Leigh Murray's side project Scorces tossed in as well) and has been unavailable since then. What Unknown Spin does for the Charalambides' aesthetic is open it up considerably to new textures, dynamics, and approaches to improvisation. The album recorded live in a studio is entirely improvised using Tom Carter's guitars, Murray's pedal steel, and Christina's and Murray's literally out-of-this-world wordless singing. Ideas are introduced, come to the fore in small phrases and open melodic lines, build into modes of expression and link onto other notions introduced by the chemistry of the voices, trail off into them, and then become something else entirely. Dynamic and harmonic changes are reflected in time and space rather than by musical dictates. Thus, shifts and shape fluxes in the music happen gradually, primitively, and intuitively making for a new kind of electric space music rooted deep in the earth, deep in the body, and deep in the aesthetic and libidinal economies of the musicians. Certainly one can call this music psychedelic, but that's just a name for something unnameable, unspeakably beautiful, and more haunted and haunting than music can articulate itself to portend to. There are four selections here, but they might as well be ten or one. The drift is not aimless so much as it is progressive; this is music — a listen to the title track or "Skin of Rivers" will convince even the most skeptical listeners — that doesn't wander aimlessly, but aimfully, deeper into the heart of itself so that reversals, openings, collapses, and both action and reaction are already built in. Discovery is part of the developing awareness of the process unfolding and the dynamic being created between the three members. Finally, Unknown Spin is a markedly different kind of improvisation than anything else out there and it is easy to see why: the indelible mark of the feminine is everywhere upon and inside it. The purposeful yet unrestrained enunciation and articulation of desire without specific object is what separates Charalambides from its more masculine peers. This magical mystery tour is one where interior remains so and is not externalized or imploded but is just allowed to speak for itself. This album is a singular achievement of form and content complementing one another, canceling each other out, and creating something new from the ruins. Don't bother looking for anything else like it; it doesn't exist...yet.


Formed: Houston, TX

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Possessed of one of the coolest names around -- actually a Greek surname -- Texas' Charalambides made a name for themselves in the '90s and beyond for their many recordings of a haunting, psychedelic-informed brand of exploratory electric guitar instrumentals. Husband-and-wife team Tom and Christina Carter -- the former a veteran of the Mike Gunn -- originally formed Charalambides in pre-marriage days with a friend, Kyle Silfer, in 1991 in Houston. Initial recordings at home for self-satisfaction...
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Unknown Spin, Charalambides
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