Avant Gold

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Credit Christina McGeehan for knowing when to hold off. Though her interests have always been in the improvisational and experimental, Avant Gold, her second full-length as Ryat (now a duo with guitarist Tim Conley), remains both concise and focused: not an easy feat. The nine tracks here wind their way through a variety of themes and tenses, barely pausing before twisting into something else, but even in their complexity, there's enough of a foundation underneath, and pure pop songwriting, to keep them from wandering into the esoteric. It's this attention to the minutiae, this intricacy in composition -- down to the level of the beats: built from, among other things, crackles, stranded drumsticks, and even silence -- as well as the band's effortlessness in combining the delicacy of St. Vincent with the trip-hop bounce of Portishead, that holds the record together. It's found no better than in "Not This Lifetime," a stand-out track that circles around itself until it's entwined in its own details, the kind of thing you want to listen to again and again to make sure you heard it right. And it's exactly this power, this ability, of Ryat's, that makes Avant Gold an album, and not merely an exercise.

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