Tuesday, January 25, 2011

John Vanderslice - "White Wilderness" (8.5 out of 10)

This is a median score (8.5) depending on what mood I was in or who I was listening to it with. That sounds like a cop-out and it is. This album was recorded with a backing symphony, which raises over-produced red flags for many (like Elton John's 1976 "Blue Moves" for instance), but I don't THINK there's an electric instrument on here. Vanderslice's acoustic guitar leads, but it's the vocal and symphonic arrangements that really make this into an artistic masterpiece of sorts. Although I'm a little miffed at Vanderslice for blatantly ripping off Belle and Sebastian's "Acts of the Apostles" on his song "Convict Lake," but no matter. That's a minor complaint. We'll let them work that out. But this is unlike any cd you are likely to hear. Without sounding like a complete poseur, it reminds me of early 20th century French composers such as Eric Satie or even Maurice Ravel. Melodic enough to keep things interesting, but not exactly tunes that you are likely to remember enough to hum afterwards. Not sure who the string arranger is, but it sounds like perhaps the son/daughter of Paul Buckmaster. If you're looking for a musical journey with lots of depth and twists and turns, then this is for you. Sounds enduring to me. This should have been the cd Sufjan recorded as a follow up to "Illinoise", so keep that in mind too. No Jetsons' era bleeps and blips on here however. Thank God.

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