Lost Tribe Sound has relocated from Arizona to Wisconsin (farewell iced tea, hello cheese!), and to celebrate, the label has launched the Dead West Tape Series. While those familiar with geography will note that Wisconsin is a northern state, the series intends to create scores for all manner of environments, from arid deserts to frothy seas. Another reason for the series is that the label’s typical LP releases are elaborate and time-consuming, and the tape format allows for swift recording and distribution; in fact, the songs on the inaugural cassette were recorded just this summer.
It’s always a slight surprise to hear U.K. musicians so capable of capturing the sound of the American West, but Andy Cartwright (Seabuckthorn) does so with ease. This isn’t the frontier sound of Western Skies Motel, but one that honors the expansiveness of the landscape. While listening, one can picture mountainous regions and wide-angle sunrises. These are found in Wisconsin as well, along with lots of beer and the Green Bay Packers. But Seabuckthorn is calmer than that, at times even pensive, his array of 12-string guitars offering a blanket of sonic comfort while his resonator guitar offers thicker timbres bordering on drone. In tracks such as “The Good River” and “Overground Courtyard”, the guitar even sounds momentarily like a cello.
The title I Could See the Smoke implies a distant fire, and Cartwright plays as if viewing a far-off blaze while tending his own campfire. Occasional percussion sets the embers alight, as does swift playing on “Returnee”. There’s nothing he can do about the conflagration, but he can do something for it; he can capture its essence before its short life is extinguished. The notes smolder and glow, illuminated by an inner flame. When the guitarist leaves, there’s no telling if the fire has gone out for good; one suspects that it remains, waiting to be rekindled by just the right breeze. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 21 October