From Quagmire

The Tropic of Barren

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From Quagmire's first release makes for another feather in the VHF label cap, combining James Wolf and Dorothy Geller's truly haunting, mysterious delicacy with Vincent Van Go-Gogh's quietly startling but never inappropriate additions and interjections. He's credited with such things as "noise" and "drone," as well as handling the overall production, while Wolf and Geller work their own particular partnership. Geller, by virtue of being the songwriter, is at the heart of every performance, her singing often as soft as possible without being there at all, at other points more distinct without sounding any louder. Her guitar work provides the basic core of each piece, while Wolf's violin doesn't so much provide accompaniment as constant surprise, suddenly appearing for a quick saw or two then disappearing again or very, very subtly adding to the performances. Go-Gogh's contributions are sometimes hard to measure as well, but it's an easy way to judge -- anything not handled by the other two is him, including sudden drum fills, downbeat electronic hums, and the like. His work handling the recording is excellent, emphasizing the space and stripped-down details of the entire ensemble performance. The whole album is in many ways of a piece, especially given that the title track takes up nearly half of its length while following that general formula. It's calm without being at all meditative, metallic scrapes and violin whines coming along just enough to disturb the peace. The remaining five cuts can and do comfortably blend into each other, creating an overall continuity that makes for at once lovely and unsettling listening. If a facile comparison were required, there's something of a Charalambides feeling to all of The Tropic of Barren, but that's limiting in the end -- both bands have very particular approaches, and From Quagmire is already off to a fine start with its own.

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