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Up Above

Town & Country

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Album Review

Town & Country continue to evolve, this time out incorporating a multitude of Asian instruments and even a bit of voice into their acoustic minimalism. The presence of sitar, shakuhachi, and khaen (a Chinese mouth organ) adds some exotic flavors to the mix and further expands their sonic palette. Percussion actually plays a more prominent role than ever, but it's gentle hand percussion that moves and colors the pieces without overwhelming them. However, it does make this a slightly livelier listen than their previous efforts. The majority of tracks were recorded live in Jim Dorling's apartment, and there are brief guest appearances by a truck and the upstairs neighbor's chair being moved, but recording like this lends an immediacy to the album. After eight years, the players are all finely attuned to each other and have a great sense of how to keep the pieces moving forward. "Sun Trolley" is a perfect case in point: a slowly evolving suite, of sorts, with bells and reeds giving way to solo viola, and then jaw harps and bells leading to mbira and sitar. It's quite beautiful. The sitar, mbira, and bells return on "Belle Isle" (as does the chair), and "Almost at White Glass and Sun" is a lovely solo acoustic guitar piece. "Fields and Parks of Easy Access" has a pretty bass ostinato and skittering strings. The title cut starts out a bit like the orchestra tuning up, but they find a nice drone to work about halfway through. "Phoney F****n' Mountain" is a piece for overtone singing and percussion that sounds almost Native American inspired, but gets dangerously close to drum circle territory with its incessant tambourine. Despite that minor misstep, they've turned in another very interesting and beautiful album. The newly incorporated instruments add a whole new dimension, finding ways to broaden their sound without drastically changing their aesthetic.

Up Above, Town & Country
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