Constellation Records is clearly very good to their artists, because they tend to stick around. Saltland‘s Rebecca Foon, a veteran of Esmerine, A Silver Mt. Zion and Set Fire to Flames, is no exception. The cellist’s new project continues a decades-old line of succession, offering the comfort of the familiar while continuing to challenge past assumptions.
The title track, split into two pieces, goes back even further, to Godspeed, but Foon’s cello makes it as melancholy as Rachel’s. This beautiful instrumental post-rock (save for a bit of cooing in the second part) swirls like the sparks of a fire caught in updrafts. A wistful yearning surrounds these pieces, perhaps the thoughts of all the bands and people and years come and gone. As in the best post-rock, one can imagine replacing the guitars with woodwinds or additional strings and coming up with something that sounds symphonic. The compositional style may be classical, but the delivery is modern and mesmerizing.
On other tracks, Foon shares her incredibly restrained voice, creating a mood akin to early works on 4AD and Hyperium. When coupled with the light percussion of Esmerine’s Jamie Thompson, these productions call to mind the narcotic moments of Chandeen and a host of other ethereal projects that never made it into the second decade of the 21st century. It’s wonderful to know that this sound has been kept alive for older fans and is available for younger fans to discover in a new context; there’s always a place for gauzy music that wraps the listener in cotton swabs of comfort. Foon turns out to be a surprisingly sweet singer, one whose voice itself is a lozenge. The most effective tracks offer a balance between voice and cello, with neither overshadowing the other. “Colour the Night Sky” in particular offers a blend of tempo and mood in which voice is but a visitor in a forest of affectation.
With contributions from luminaries including Colin Stetson, Sarah Neufeld and Richard Reed Parry, this album should have no problem finding an audience. It won’t be a large audience – the singing is way too hushed and the accessibility too low – but it will certainly be a dedicated, loving audience, the type that would yearn to gather around the aforementioned campfire and be drawn into Saltland’s spell. We suspect that’s just what Foon would want from her debut album. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 14 May