Christian Kiefer

To All Dead Sailors

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AllMusic Review by

Both Christian Kiefer and Jefferson Pitcher have made their increasingly higher-profile marks in part through their many collaborations with likeminded musicians, and on To All Dead Sailors they bring that spirit together on a collection of original songs on themes of the sea and those who voyaged and perished on it. Images of Gordon Lightfoot singing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" may come to mind but while both performers have singer/songwriter roots, here they're mixed with the more experimental sonic elements that have increasingly characterized their work. Soft found-sound backgrounds and highly understated drones and textures flush out nearly every song's guitar (when used) and singer on any respective piece. The instrumentation often makes direct reference to those used in the sea shanties of the past -- squeezeboxes, for instance -- without letting them dominate or simply turn the album into a period piece. Pitcher's deeper and Kiefer's lighter vocals provide regular contrasts throughout, making their often striking and, understandably given the album's theme, sad images of disasters at sea, grieving survivors, and the mechanisms and rituals of past generations feel almost like a series of gentle documentaries. Standout tracks include "Marconi Brings the Cypher," Kiefer singing through a softly watery flange over gentle chimes and keyboards, and the dreamy "The Mermaid and the Drunks," one of two full songwriting collaborations between the two on the disc, with the combination of stark electric guitar and harmonizing suggesting the considerable best of the band Low.

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