Charles Spearin ~ My City of Starlings

We last encountered Do Make Say Think’s Charles Runstein on Thank God the Plague Is Over, recorded with Josefin Runsteen (whose own fine HANA – Three Bodies is slated for release this fall).  Unfortunately the plague is still not over, but fortunately we have new music from Spearin to help see us through.

There was a slight hiccup along the way, as the 12-hour looped version of the lead single “Portrait of the Artist as a Thursday” was removed from YouTube for being “too long.”  Such excision begs comparison to Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer”: “It was a beautiful song, but it ran too long, so they cut it down to 3:05.”  This song is only 2:44, but a 7:51 version still survives online.  Director Jared Sales original idea was to offer music as Sabbath, inviting viewers (none of whom were expected to watch the whole thing) to detach from routine and reengage into real time.

One of the interesting aspects of hearing Spearin on his own is noting both the divergences and intersections with DMST.  The post-rock is absolutely here, but jazz is also a dominant flavor, the two sharing space as early as opener “Sympathy & Vegetation.”  The single’s brass recalls Chicago, while the glockenspiel tugs at the hem of modern composition.  What would you like to hear on a 12-hour loop?

The wide variety of instruments reflects a similar amount of international collaborators.  Spearin challenged himself to record a song every day ~ a project remarkably similar to bandmate Justin Smalls’ song-a-week subscription series from 2015.  The mode of composition lends these pieces a spontaneity that leaps from the speakers, especially when accompanied by field recordings, as in the birds and traffic of “Diaspora.”  This is his city of starlings (Toronto we assume), and he loves every aspect of it.

The brass blasts and ebullient cheers of “Rutting Season” make it an early favorite; one can picture it being played in a park.  But please, no rutting, you’ll get a ticket.  The album remains completely instrumental for the first 18 minutes, and even when Robin Dann enters in “Three Voices (Braided Carefully),” the singing remains wordless, as it does in”My Heart is an Appaloosa in Center.”  While Spearin’s lyrics do appear in three of the last six tracks, the irresistible romanticism of closer “The Wedding Song” causes all to be forgiven; and we’re glad to hear the artist stretching his wings.

My City of Starlings contains music to dance to, music to swoon to, and a little bit of music to sing along with.  This generous record opens its doors and says, all are welcome here. (Richard Allen)

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