Tuesday, March 30, 2010


An Index of Birds (Silber, 03.2010)

For: Low, Spokane, Unwed Sailor

Byline: Sounds of an out-of-print classic that is very much available. Gorgeous slowcore/post-rock album with its roots firmly planted in forgotten nineties subgenres languishing on used CD shelves somewhere in the midwest.

I can understand the obsession with vinyl. On a nice pair of speakers the music really does sound warmer and richer, the artwork on a nice gatefold record is something worth cherishing forever (Crawf showed me the Torche's Meanderthal LP... AMAZING!), and the act of purchasing and owning a tangible recreation of an album lives up to the hype spun by independent record stores. I, on the other hand, do not have a record collection. Not because of a conscious choice, I just never got around to dropping the money on a nice turntable and speakers. I do own three records to date, Neil Young's Everyone Knows This is Nowhere (a wedding present), Thursday/Envy Split EP (don't judge me, released on Temporary Residence, limited edition), and a Woody Allen stand-up album I bought at a thrift store in Idaho (don't ask me why). What I do have is a pretty rad CD collection. I am a CD advocate, for many reasons. It was the medium of my generation, the artists who adapted could do wonders with the mini format (The Magnetic Fields 69 Songs Box Set!? Get outta here!), and of course with the relatively cheaper format of releasing albums on CD guaranteed a bunch of crazy crap would eventually be released (although the LP owns the title of worst album covers. Nineties graphic artists just got cheap and lazy)

What I'm getting at here is that I can't divorce some great records with the way I bought them, from dusty (inexplicably sticky) racks of used cds in the dank basements of record stores and pennies on the dollar for garage sale steals. These have been my most treasured possessions, even though they aren't on vinyl. After listening to Carta's An Index of Birds I can imagine this album being one of those finds. Everything from the creepy severed doll head album cover to the subdued color pallate, this is one of those albums I can see myself thinking "this looks intriguing", buying it for 4 $, brining it home and being blown away. So, if you don't find it in a dusty corner of a record store, consider yourself luck you found it here, on a dusty little corner of the blogosphere. Released on Silber Records, which has never let me down, An Index of Birds is a hushed, fragile, mostly instrumental record that marries charming ambient pieces centered on looped acoustic instrumentation with the decided post-rock march towards a climactic end. Carta take the prettiest moments of Low, the downcast shuffling rhythm section of unsung slowcore heroes Spokane, and the maritime steadiness of Unwed Sailor and processes them through the post-classical sensibilities of Rachel's or this years amazing Slow Six. Gorgeous stuff, granted some of the more ambient tracks feel like segues, Carta knows how to write songs. Instrumental song-songs that have a purpose, direction, and determined end in sight. Although used sparingly, Carta uses vocals to counterpoint the general luminescence of their recording as a whole. The imagery on "Small Lights" creeped me out a little to tell the truth, and while "loud" isn't beyond my list of adjectives, "Back To Nature" and "The Late Alfred M" do not hold anything back when voicing disappointment or near-threatening visceral song writing. The female vocals on "Descension" courtesy of Lorealle Bishop, posses the smoky, breathy emoting of Ida's Elizabeth Mitchell. A standout moment on the album.

An Index of Birds, is a rare find these days, nostalgic but wholly original. A period piece of a faceless generation. A lovingly crafted musical statement. Silber Records, you're doing it rite.

Ryan H.


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