S. Carey Is Scary (Good)
For an album composed of such minimal parts (a sparkle of guitar, a distant kick drum, fragmented lyrics), S. Carey’s Range of Light holds the same expansiveness of a mountain range seen from an airplane. And perhaps it’s this counterbalance between large and small scopes that makes the album surprisingly dense while allowing the space for the listener to breathe. S. Carey does a lot in Range of Light without becoming overwhelming—which, from Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, has become the characteristic style of each Jagjaguwar release.
Each song on the album dances the way light does over a pile of metal shavings. “Crown the Pines” (the third song on the album) is the most concrete example of this. The song begins with a simple piano riff overlaid with repetitive, chant-like lyrics. As soon as the relationship between these two elements has been established, we hear Justin Vernon’s trademark falsetto weave the two together. It would be an understatement to say this album moves quickly. After a few bars, a boiling violin bubbles over the track while the drumbeat keeps things steady in the background. The song climaxes with all the parts playing together then ebbing away into swells of strings.
Range of Light seems to take on the project of filling silences with the appearance of fullness. Underneath the reverb-heavy vocals and melodic strings, there seems to be an emptiness that will never fade. Without a doubt, this seems to part of the project itself: to show that no matter how many artistic backflips we go through there will always be that moment of silence that is simultaneously beautiful and extremely harrowing.
Kicking off the last third of the album, “Fleeting Light” shows this concept in action. A gradual crescendo builds through echoes, delays and harmonies. This crescendo, this fever-pitch seems to break apart the subtle beauty S. Carey had been cultivating throughout the album. Dispensing with the neo-folk aesthetic the album had set up (think Fleet Foxes or Still Corners or Bon Iver), “Fleeting Light” enters a vast soundscape not unlike the overwhelming barrenness of a Rothko. Cymbals and thick chords wash their sibilance over the track before everything fades, leaving the listener with the sound of her own breath—the harrowing beauty of silence.
There’s a polish to Range of Light that allows S. Carey to create an album that is both conceptually and viscerally satisfying. It also seems to be an album that would transfer well to the live stage, which it will be doing during Middle of the Map next week–Thursday 12:30am Riot Room (okay, technically Friday). That said, S. Carey will offer a perfect counterpoint to of Montreal’s mania-fueled sonic fun and WHY?’s ironic and self-deprecating lyrics (and not to mention be a great place for all of us to jitter in our thrift store flannel).