The Green (Hidden Shoal, 2010)
For: His Name is Alive, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Brian Eno
Byline: Spacey atmospherics, booming bass, and gorgeous melodicism. Could you ask for more?
Boxharp is the band of one Scott Solter, a man who's tagged himself producer of such artists as John Vanderslice, Superchunk and the Mountain Goats. But Boxharp, his project with singer Wendy Allen, sounds nothing like any of these. In fact, it's difficult to put any one finger on the prismatic set of influences that add up to the band's expansive yet direct aesthetic. It's "expansive" in that each song starts with a fuzzy blanket of warm, Eno-like ambience that eventually swallows melodies whole. It's "direct" in that those melodies are still very much there, rising from the mist with delicate immediacy, slipping their way gently into the folds with gorgeous harmonies and ghostly effects. Boxharp also highlights an intriguing divide somewhere between the celestial and worldly. The Green jumps from songs that employ West-African rhythmic devices (with drums so wide and cavernous they might have come from the bottom of a dried-up well), haunted ship sea-shanties, twinges of celtic folk song, and pop tunes, too. But each of these styles reaches out beyond the stratosphere; even when the groove is locked in deep, Boxharp still hovers.
Aside from the andante swagger of "Kannarock, VA," paces are kept lullingly slow throughout The Green, something that works for the band's sound but ends up holding the record back at the same time. Probably the closest thing I've heard to Boxharp is His Name is Alive (lord, it feels amazing to type that band name in a blog post), but even those guys knew how to ramp up the tempo and drive one home with some energy. Regardless, The Green comes out as a focused set of lullabies, and really, it's been maybe since Marissa Nadler's Songs III: Bird on the Water that it feels right that way. The Green is late nights, fireplaces, ghost stories and legends, all rolled up into a NyQuil capsule of a record. Your dreams have never sounded so good.
Free MP3 of "Leatherwing Bat" *note: this track is supremely beautiful.