Flows West to East

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Recorded during a cross-country trip from, as the title indicates, the West Coast to the East, Flows West to East is a collection of, to quote Anderson's description, "shaky etudes for tiple, vocals and water." Arranged in the order of the trip, with a chart on the cover indicating which song was written where (as do some of the song titles), it's a quick, bemusing listen. Those who require lo-fi tape hiss in their music will find plenty here, but as with Anderson's usual modus operandi, that's not an end to itself -- it's merely part of what he had on hand (namely, a cheap tape recorder). The tiple itself is a guitar of Latin American origin with a high, sprightly sound, while the water referred to ends up providing everything from rhythm to an almost maracas-like sound. Anderson's accompanied by at least one partner on the trip, who presumably provides some of the extra instrumentation (autoharp appears to be used at least once) along with the vocals. Some of the cuts are essentially fragments or assembled from fragments, but as audio verite it can often be charming -- a good example is "Baring Falls, MT (Waterfall)," with said waterfall providing the background as Anderson indulges in a quick bit of a cappella singing. As for the more straightforward songs, the introductory "Swan Lake, MT" sets the stage with the odd, amusing combination described above (minus vocals), while "Rensselaer, NY" and "In the Moment" are also charmers. One great moment comes with "Esther Anderson's Lullaby," where Anderson, visiting an older relative, gets her to sing and explain said lullaby and its background -- it's charming without being cloying. Everything from train horns to birds surfaces somewhere along the way, making Flows West to East at once a combination documentary and its own enjoyable, low-key musical experience.

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