Venice Is Sinking

Sand & Lines: The Georgia Theatre Sessions, May 20th-24th 2008

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It's usually a bad sign when an artist makes a big deal about the circumstances under which an album was recorded, as opposed to what actually was recorded. In 2008, when Venice Is Sinking, a band from Athens, GA, got an offer from the owner of the local Georgia Theatre to record there, the musicians clearly had visions of making their own version of Cowboy Junkies' 1989 LP The Trinity Session, famously recorded with one microphone. Venice Is Sinking used two microphones, but the idea was still the same, to deliberately employ a primitive recording technique and not do overdubs, such that the album was "live" (though not in the sense of having been made in concert before an audience). All of this may be true to the lo-fi, D.I.Y. code of indie rockers, but in practice, of course, it results in a recording much less interesting to actually listen to than it is to talk about. The coughing and chatter serve to further the off-the-cuff feel, but the sound itself is inevitably blurry, as if one were listening to the band playing from the lobby with the doors closed. Venice Is Sinking reinforces the resemblance to Cowboy Junkies by playing country-oriented material (including covers of songs by Dolly Parton and Waylon Jennings) at dirge-like tempos as if they were death ballads from the Appalachian mountains. With its prominent viola played by Karolyn Troupe, the group's sound is somewhat reminiscent of mid-period Go-Betweens, or would be if the songs were more clearly audible. As it is, Sand & Lines comes off as an album made more in thrall to a concept than for the purpose of being heard by paying customers. No wonder it was recorded in an empty theater.

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