Last month we showcased the new subscription series from Lost Tribe Sound. This month, the two premiere releases were unveiled to the public. The first is a lovely collaboration between Gavin Miller and Aaron Martin, and the second is a charity compilation that continues the collaborative theme.
First off, we’ve got to tell you that these books are looking fantastic. Lost Tribe Sound has always been attentive to presentation, and the new series extends their odyssey. Just holding one of these tilts the owner toward the music. In the case of Meander Scar, the two four-part tracks are soft and endearing, “Upper Course” featuring Aaron Martin and “Lower Course” the work of Gavin Miller alone. These long pieces take their time, establishing themes and then engaging in repetitions and permutations. At the end of “Upper Course I,” the cello withdraws to reveal a wealth of chimes. The second part showcases Miller’s guitar, the third keys. Martin’s mournful additions transform solemnity into shimmering beauty. But it was almost not to be.
“Lower Course” offers the tracks in their original forms: stripped-down, nearly bare, a reflection of the meander scars cut in rock by water. These are not completely without adornment; one can hear water flowing like static at the end of the third part, and distant rumbles of thunder throughout the fourth. But Martin is missing; or to be more accurate, he hasn’t yet arrived. The listener has the ability to compare these versions, the greatest difference in the first and the least in the last (given the field-filling presence of percussion). But one need not choose a winner; instead, one might choose the course that matches one’s mood.
We experienced some initial confusion when we first saw We Stayed The Path That Fell To Shadow. Wasn’t this the same release we just covered? We realized it is not. The title is the same as the subscription series and the cover is almost identical to that of the series sampler, but the music is all new: five collaborations and six solo works. Now the last track of the sampler (From the Mouth of the Sun and Seabuckthorn‘s “Lesser Still,” included here) makes sense. The other collaborations included pair William Ryan Fritch with Alder & Ash and Manyfingers; kj and The Green Kingdom; and Kiln and Mute Forest. Fritch’s track with Alder & Ash, “All Is Surprising to the Forgetful,” is an early highlight, with choral vocals and a full, autumnal feel. The solo cello break in the center is especially inviting; it’s like getting lost in the woods, then finding one’s way out.
To continue with these timbres, one might skip forward to Alder & Ash’s own “Lest the Fever Takes Them,” a title reminiscent of medieval plagues; to Fritch’s solo piece “Burrow;” or to his Manyfingers collaboration, “A Threadbare Web,” which ironically is anything but threadbare, decorated with piano, percussion and hints of brass. Each is intricate and engaging, to the extent that it would be hard to give either an edge. Or one might simply allow the rest of the album to unfold in sequence, affording it the opportunity to present different faces like the masks of All Souls’ Night. With track titles such as “Step into the Void” and “Bones ov Chorus,” this is a somber affair, with only occasional breaks of light. The mood fits the fall season, but also matches the causes. We Stayed The Path That Fell To Shadow honors its title by donating its proceeds to environmental and mental health organizations, with an emphasis on helping “artists, friends, and musicians struggling with suicidal thoughts and actions, abuse, addiction and depression.” Empathetic music, worthwhile charities and yet another beautiful hardcover presentation combine to make this a release worth praising. (Richard Allen)