The music of Wisconsin duo Rain Drinkers is intelligent and complex, difficult to categorize but easy to enjoy. A single track can range from pastoral ambience to cumulus drone to small orchestra. This is especially true on Wood Violet‘s 20-minute title track. Drum machines and violins lie in a king-sized bed along with guitars, pianos, and synths, discussing what they’d like for breakfast. Eventually they order everything. The tempo shifts with the shadows of the day, ranging from upbeat to nearly still.
If a single moment could summarize an artist, it would be 01:48 of “Wood Violet”. The strings have already smoothed the sheets. Bells have announced the day. Thunderclouds have formed and begun to test their borders. A flock of birds chatters a warning. Then for a second, everything drops out except the birds, as if Xan Mane Krass (who also records as Troy Schafer) and Joe Taylor are saying, notice. The more one listens, the more one hears elements before they come to the fore; the experience with the birds has trained the ear to listen to both the foreground and the background. At various junctures, one might ask, “Where did these drums come from?” “When did this turn into an electronic track?” Or even, “Where did the music go?” Like all of the best Rain Drinkers tracks, “Wood Violet” is a deep sonic forest. One can’t understand it by flying over it; one has to walk through it. Rain Drinkers rewards the slow approach, the measured step, the patient pedestrian. Pack the supplies, don the boots, and plunge in.
Side B begins with “Field of Ash” which launches into an apprehension of strings before smoldering like its title. The quickening pace of the early minutes is matched by the crumbling of the late. The center contains percussive embers, flaring full before burning out. Piano notes waft like smoke. The arc is easier to spot, but the beauty is intact. “Live at the Wisco” rounds out the set, demonstrating that Rain Drinkers is by no means a studio creation. This time, the surge is saved for the finale, providing an unexpected catharsis. A small crowd claps, and we do too. (Richard Allen)