What’s the first thing that comes to mind when fronted by Lost Trail’s split opener “O’ Black And Fallen Smokestacks, Rise!”? GY!BE and spin off A Silver Mt. Zion? Post-Rock? Sparrows Swarm and Sing!’s O’Shenodah Mighty Death Will Find Me? More Post-Rock?! If so, then you’re wrong, wrong, wrong and WRONG!
While the name could definitely be a nod to inspirations and influences, the music contained within this and the other two songs on the Lost Trail side of the split, titled Intersecting Lines of Power, is a continuation of Zachary and Denny Corsa’s experiments in field recordings and drones. The music unfolds slowly, growing in power and stature only to dwindle down and cross to more disturbing grounds. This is not an easy listen. I repeat: This is not an easy listen! but with the amount of stuff going on every minute, the ebb and flow of soundscapes, it forms a force field so strong until it crushes everything halfway through track one. The broken piano loops in “Open Space Reserve” tell a mournful story over a sound of children playing in the distance and everything coalesces beautifully in the final track which combines all elements to brutal effect. The chants at the end summon goosebumps and end this first side on a definite high. I will confess to not having every Lost Trail release so far, but from what I have heard, I would definitely say this one is a winner and one that shouldn’t be ignored as “just another ambient release”
On that note, one would wish things to carry on in the same vibe, or at least maintain the same quality, sadly though, this is not the case. Sunup Recording’s founder Marcus Ead’s Native Prairie, while with its own merits, breaks the mood. Split side opener “North Twin” is five minutes of birdsong, which could’ve been forgiven if in some way or another was made interesting in some way or another, but it’s just the same birdsong over and over again. I am no bird hater, I might not be their biggest fan either, but this reaches the point of being a little bit too self indulgent. The self titled side is somewhat perplexing to be honest, as it shows potential with soothing reverb laden scapes and emotive plucked guitars, but forgoes it to some rather mundane field recordings which allow no breathing room for other elements to shine. It’s not noisy enough to be noise, not chilled enough to be ambient and becomes an overbearing listen after a couple of spins. Again, there is potential, but it needs further cultivation and probably more focus on the mixing and production process. Lo-fi is good, very good, but when done wrong it’s a nuisance.
At the end we’re faced with one of the biggest problems when it comes to splits, where one side is noticeably better than the other. This can be attributed to experience, attention to detail in production, choice of samples and myriad other reasons, but the story remains the same and the release as a whole falters a bit because of this imbalance. Don’t skip side one though, it’s pretty fantastic! (Mohammed Ashraf)