The For Carnation valued quality over quantity: they released just two EPs and a full-length album over the course of six years. The band's slim discography reflects Brian McMahan and company's painstaking, extremely restrained approach to making music, which straddled the border of slowcore and post-rock. The comparisons the band drew to McMahan's former group, the legendary Slint, and to other former Slint members' projects like Gastr del Sol, didn't really appreciate the For Carnation's sketches and studies in tension, release, and silence in their own right. The whispers and wide-open spaces in their songs were uniquely warm and intimate, drawing listeners in; if and when the guitars and vocals swelled, they had even more impact than they would've if the songs' dynamics were more typical. Promised Works, which collects the For Carnation's Matador EPs Fight Songs and Marshmallows, plays just as well as a full-length as the band's lone, self-titled album does. The tracks from Fight Songs prove that the For Carnation had their musical strategy mapped out from the start. "Get and Stay Get March"'s circular, sleepwalking coda, decorated with gentle strings chirping birds, is equally gorgeous and mysterious, while "How I Beat the Devil"'s false starts just add to the song's charm once its giddy guitars finally kick in. The songs from the For Carnation's second EP Marshmallows go darker and sparer, and while "Salo" might be too insular and meandering for its own good, tracks like the pretty, fragmented vignette "On the Swing" and the sweet-yet-spooky "Imyr, Marshmallows" show the range within the band's seemingly limited palette. They push even further with "I Wear the Gold"'s woozy guitars and intricate polyrhythms and the outstanding "Winter Lair," a study in whispers and guitars as spare as bare trees that captures snowy desolation with eerie perfection. Likewise, Promised Works captures the subtle, almost peripheral beauty of the For Carnation's small, but very close to perfectly formed body of work.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares