Offthesky and Man Watching the Stars ~ Afar, Farewell

1848551770-1Rural Colours, as a label, seems to emphasize in most of its releases the connection between the artwork and the music.  Both are abstract with colors (colours rather) that are in some cases dark, in others bright, but always bringing to mind open space, and the possibilities that come with it.  This collaboration between Jason Corder aka Offthesky and experimental violinist Brendan Paxton who goes by Man Watching the Stars (a very fitting alias I might add, judging from what I heard on this album at least) couldn’t be an exception as the two of them have made an album that very much describes the rural landscape while being deeply emotional as well as intellectually challenging.

On the album cover we see a flock of birds flying over the sunset, which has changed the color of the water.  A lovely image surrounded by a darkness ready to consume these last few moments of daylight.  The darkness in this picture could be the soft drones from Corder’s processed guitar and Paxton’s violin, which slowly but steadily embrace us.  Beginning with “Patience”, the album’s first track, the two musicians take their time with building an atmosphere.  If we are however patient, we will soon be rewarded.  The volume increases gradually until we reach a point where it’s neither too loud nor too quiet.  Once the noise recedes we are “Captured in a Quill of Sloe”.  The noise soon picks up again, only this time it clearly isn’t just noise.  It’s hard to believe this is the work of only two people as the variety of instruments and unusual sounds make us believe we are listening to a ragtag orchestra.  But we can’t help but notice that behind the unquestionable desire to innovate, there is a darkness, the same darkness perhaps that neither the birds nor the sun can escape from.  That darkness is of course knowledge, the knowledge of imperfection and humility that allows the artists to be objective observers of their reality.  But that knowledge shouldn’t turn our hearts into stone, and the duo knows that well, which is why “Rime Of The Bloodsands Pyre” offers hints of optimism with its sweeping melodies rising from the ashes.  All journeys come to an end of course, and as the mourning instruments sing “Farewell, Brother”, Offthesky and Man Watching the Stars let themselves go, improvising, increasing the volume and diving into a sea of static and distortion while maintaining the solemn tone they have kept throughout the album.  Once the music is over we are indeed rewarded as the album works as a story with highs and lows coming at the right time and a happy ending, or at least as happy and final an ending can be. (John Kontos)

Available here

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