Cinderland was recorded in a cold Wisconsin winter and reflects the barren landscape, the wide open spaces, and the interminable passage of time. The sound is sparse, measured, and deep, a melding of Mark Bridges’ cello and the contributions of Scott Morgan (loscil). Together they produce a sullen, introspective sound suitable for the season.
Out on the prairies and plains, one loses all track of time. The mountains beckon in the distance, weather systems can be seen approaching for miles, and one imagines the early settlers, snowed in, surviving on meager provisions, and in some cases perishing, their bodies found after the spring melt. This territory is meant for the hardy and brave. High Plains provides their soundtrack, imitating their plodding footsteps, their perseverance, their determination to conquer impassive landscapes and tame resistant ground. Winter is implied through the loneliness of the cello and the sluggish tempo, akin to that of a near-frozen fly, instincts gone, vulnerable to swatting.
The music is also suitable to post-trauma, a time in which too many notes can overwhelm, when it’s too much to take in a single lyric, when repetition can exist unnoticed and minute variations can sink into the soul. This is music for long drives, deep in thought, the music a focus rather than a distraction. One might even make the case that it is conducive to prayer. The desperation of a cold heart becomes a prayer of sorts, even if no deity is invoked. The irony of the recording is that it took the closeness of two musicians to evoke distance.
This makes the blast of “White Truck”, arriving at 1:42, all the more shocking, as it stuns the listener from reverie and serves as a call to arms, or at the very least a wake-up call. No time to wallow in the mire. While acknowledging the beauty of winter and its sister, withdrawal, High Plains also seems to be saying, “Wake up. You can’t fall asleep out here, sitting propped up against a barn in the snow. You’ll die.” And so, like the early settlers, the listener is challenged to get up and go on. There’s danger out there, yes, but beauty as well. Reason enough to live. (Richard Allen)