End-dances is the new album by Pillars and Tongues on Empty Cellar Records. Although fromChicago, Beth Remis, Ben Babbitt, and Mark Trecka have spent much of the last few years traveling, performing music in a wide variety of contexts, exploring the severe and sublime landscapes of America, and returning to or refusing to return to variations on the theme of home.
Recorded by Theo Karon, End-dances leaps forward in the direction implied by the last full-length,The Pass and Crossings, and the recent cassette,If Travel is Asked of Me. Long-form compositions are coerced into considered and patiently constructed songs, resulting in their most pop-oriented work to date. But in that, the work allies with the darker, stranger side of the pop realm, evoking the drama and atmosphere of Dead Can Dance, and the art-prog experimentation of Peter Gabriel's 4. The characteristic harmonium and violin blend with enveloping synths, undulating loops and gated rhythms of hazy origin.
Karon's adventurous engineering is apparent throughout the record; the band's attention to the expressive potential of the sounds themselves is supported by mesmeric tape loops, saturated vocal echoes, and vibrant tones coaxed from radically transformed sources. Points of intersection between the acoustic and the electronic are embraced, calling the assumed organic nature of a drum and the artifice of a synthesizer into question. Loping, hypnotic rhythms give way to cinematic ambient passages, receding to reveal, again and again, the voices, withTrecka's bold baritone in the lead. Remis' voice -- central and refined -- conjures, floats, and skitters, at varying points harmonizing with and counteringTrecka's lead, as both chant against Babbitt'scroon.
The lyrics are poetic, exploring themes of ambivalence, health and the acts of writing and singing. 'Knifelike' reads like a less optimistic version of Kate Bush's 'Love and Anger', flirting with tender descriptions of metaphorical violence: "My lines, knifelike impressions of your life / give teeth to timelines / cut knuckles testify". 'Bell + Rein' is an acknowledged homage to Leonard Cohen's 'Take This Longing', reiterating an infamous desire to not desire. 'Medora' and 'Travel' are both hallucinatory descriptions of travel as an act of self-actualization. "I ride through / to follow / where I go". 'Ends' evokes the elegiac melancholy of William Basinski, pitting a single thin and unadorned violin against a torrent of tape-garbled pianos.
'End-dances' Track Listing:
3. Bell + Rein
4. Points of Light
Sep 20 - - Chicago, IL - The Chicago Cultural Center
Sep 24 - Pittsburgh, PA - Andy Warhol Museum *
Sep 26 - Toronto, ON - The Drake Hotel *
Oct 1- Northampton, MA - Iron Horse Music Hall *
Oct 2 - Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's *
Oct 4 - Boston, MA - Museum Of Fine Arts *
Oct 5 - Purchase, NY - The Stood *
Oct 6 - Washington, DC - DC9 *
Oct 7 - Richmond, VA - Strange Matter *
Oct 8 - Athens, GA - Normaltown Hall *
Oct 10 - Lexington, KY - Cosmic Charlies *
Oct 11 - Indianapolis, IN - White Rabbit Caberet *
Oct 12 - Chicago, IL - The Burlington
* w/ Angel Olsen
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.