Steven R. Smith

Autumn Is the End

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As was the case with much of Steven R. Smith's earlier solo work, Autumn Is the End doesn't show much of the various around-the-world music inspirations that would later come to bear in his compositions, except by default perhaps (such as the droning howls opening up "In Held Ambit"). Instead, the focus is on guitar-led instrumentals pitched somewhere between Roy Montgomery's explorations and acid folk jams, at once murkily alien and sometimes quite serene. The sense of New Zealand-inspired shadow comes up more than once throughout the album -- the blend of stern piano and heavily reverbed guitar on "Sifting Chimelle" and "In Held Ambit," for instance. Generally, Smith arranges his compositions to contrast his guitar drones and textures with other instruments that often provide the core rhythms or melodies for him to play around or against. "This Fleeced Reel," with its steady, echoing beats and keyboard parts, gives his guitar plenty of room to fill in, which it does and then some, veering between full-bore textural dominance and calmer melodies. The immediately following "To This Nothing Already Then," meanwhile, is the closest to a Mirza-like composition in that it has the feel of a full band jam thanks especially to the drums, making Smith's ability to capture that feeling via overdubs all the more impressive. It's also some of his best playing overall on the album, with the near-anthemic build of the guitars toward the middle capturing a feeling of dark but strong exultance, keyboards adding a heavenly glaze around the corners, before everything breaks into a massive, rushed final charge. In contrast, "Ohne.../Long, Long Hence" is the most empty, quiet composition in its first part, making the return to a slow-rising full arrangement in the second part that much more dramatic.

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