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Tom Carter - Monument

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Artist: Tom Carter

Album: Monument

Label: Kranky

Review date: Aug. 29, 2004


For all his connections to Charalambides and the Free-Folk Festival, Tom Carter's lovely new Monument reissue (recorded in 2001 and originally released by Wholly Other as a CD-R) reminds me of two guitarists who have little to do with either of those things, namely New Zealand's Roy Montgomery and New York's Loren Mazzacane. It isn't that Carter sounds like either of those two artists Carter plays lap steel guitar here, which isn't even the same instrument. Rather, the similarities lie in Carter's decision to go it alone, both literally and metaphorically.

Both Montgomery and Mazzacane often record solo, usually with nothing but a guitar and sometimes, in Montgomery's case, a voice. The solo format works well for them because they're both great at conveying feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Monument is successful for the same reason. Carter's playing is only similar to traditional (think Nashville) pedal steel in the sense that both feature long sustains. Carter's sustains are too controlled to be called feedback, but they often share feedback's high-pitched and disembodied qualities. He allows them to drift off into silence or near-silence, much like Mazzacane often does. Monument is essentially improvised, and the sounds are allowed to enter and exit in a hazy, dreamlike way that would be difficult to plan ahead of time or coordinate with another player.

So Carter probably couldn't have made Monument with others, and that's appropriate given what the music sounds like. Like the music of Mazzacane and Montgomery, Monument evokes barren landscapes, endless late-night drives and regrets revisited when there's nothing else to think about.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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