Not everyone grows up in a peaceful environment or in a happy home. But most folks wish they did, or try to make it so. Even those who suffered much as children carry within them a nostalgia for tiny moments or objects: sunlight glinting through the blinds, a favorite toy. It’s these moments – the safe, the treasured – that Darren Harper and Jared Smyth successfully capture on this endearing album. Fathers themselves, they now share the perspective of childhood from a different angle, protective and proud.
Home presents an idealized environment of kind and curious sounds, evoking childhood through toys and laughter, quiet precipitation and footsteps in the snow. There’s no danger or difficulty to be found here, no bills to be paid, no tantrums, no messes on the floor. It’s not meant to be realistic, but encouraging. The artists first exchanged, then combined their sonic diaries from one end of the United States to the other, creating a blend of field recordings and gentle instrumentation both soothing and serene. The combination of household objects and electronics is reminiscent of Pawn, while the addition of acoustic guitar and field recordings brings to mind the softer work of Wixel.
While many albums have been named Home, this one actually feels like home. From the descriptive titles (“Count the Red Cars Home”, “Father by the Window”) to the overall sense of tentative grace, the album presents a sense of warm belonging. One imagines a mobile above a crib, a puffy winter coat, hot chocolate on the stove, a bedtime story, a hearth, a couple content at the completion of another day. These images are made possible by creative combinations of sound: bells, samples, light drones. This is no mulch of processed sources; it’s consistently clear and sharp, an HD ambience.
The tracks are structured from sunrise to sunset, from “Warmth” and “Dawn Rising” to “Evening Falls” and “Little Star”. The rattle, rain and mother’s murmur of the opening track are matched by the winding down of the last toy at the end of the closer. It seems to be that Harper and Smyth wish that all families – even those in turmoil – might experience days like these, each one an oasis, a reminder of why we wed, why we conceive, why we sacrifice, why we soldier on: for the momentary glimpses of wonder that make everything worthwhile. (Richard Allen)