Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Rachel's - Selenography (1999)
I crashed a car with this one playing in the background. Yeah I was pretty fucked up. Here is a review of this album taken from Pitchfork:
"Rachel's is a band with an impressive pedigree and a spotty discography. They're part of one of the more interesting band complexes around these days-- one which includes June of '44, the Sonora Pine and the now- defunct Rodan-- and both the core of this band and its many satellite members have proven themselves as excellent players and songwriters.
Even so, Rachel's recordings have managed to disappoint and frustrate as often as they've managed to please. Their debut, Handwriting, was a solid record, pretty throughout and very often surprising; it's best moment, the 14+ minute- long "Full on Night," is possibly the most satisfying fusion of strings, jazz guitar and found sound ever to grace my earholes.
Their sophomore record, Music for Egon Shiele, stuck to a pretty straight- forward chamber music format and is in equal parts sublime and interminable. And then there was 1996's The Sea and the Bells, a double LP featuring a full orchestra of both traditional and bizarre instruments that should have been epic and expansive, and ended up being a little obnoxious. (Truth be told, I've never made it through to the album's last quarter.)
Still, there are very few other bands doing what these guys are doing-- that being modern chamber music with an indie rock sensibility. For this reason, I continue to look forward hopefully to each new release. And with Selenography, Rachel's finally lives up to the promise suggested by Handwriting.
Superficial details first: Selenography is a really great word, isn't it? The study of the physical features of the moon, the idea of selenography connotes a sort of Victorian hybrid of science and mysticism that perfectly fits the album's sound. The chamber music feel is still prevalent this time out; Christian Frederickson's violin continues to occupy the foreground, but the bottom end has filled in a bit, more tracks were recorded with a drum kit, and there's freer use of samples and other goodies. Tracks range from the vibraphone- and bleep- filled ambience of "Artemisia" to the more simple and lush piano/ strings/ trumpet combo of "Cuts the Metal Cold" to "Honeysuckle Suite," which despite being a solo harsichord piece amazingly manages to avoid sounding like Mannheim Steamroller.
Selenography, while covering a pretty wide range of instrumental textures, presents a more cohesive vision than anything Rachel's have offered so far. They've tightened their focus this time around and the payoff is substantial. If you're expecting something as highly experimental as The Sea and the Bells, Selenography will probably be kind of a letdown. But if you appreciated the austerity of Handwriting and have been searching for more, your hunt is over."
- Zach Hooker, December 31, 1999