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The Blithe Sons - We Walk the Young Earth

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Artist: The Blithe Sons

Album: We Walk the Young Earth

Label: Family Vineyard

Review date: Jul. 22, 2003

Answering Nature's Call

The Blithe Sons’ third release (and first for the Family Vineyard label) is a sublime and focused extension of Glen Donaldson and Loren Chasse’s work within the San Francisco-based musical collective called Jewelled Antler. Recorded out of doors in a WWII-era bunker (Marin Headlands, California) and under a bridge (in San Gregorio, California), We Walk The Young Earth finds this duo very comfortable in these odd confines. Using landscape as instrument, they fuse the ambient sounds of nature into a ringing, chiming minimalist drone that evokes both modern classical and emotive folk-rock.

Donaldson and Chasse are the principal masterminds behind Jewelled Antler, a belt-loosening body of creativity. As both an aesthetic approach to sound creation and a CD-R based label, Jewelled Antler’s members are a handful of like-minded musicians whose imaginative gestalt is embedded in the axis of collateral improvisation, distilled and concentrated via their many shared projects. Be it Chasse and Donaldson in Thuja, Donaldson’s Mirza or Birdtree, Chasse and Jason Honea in Child Readers, or the other collective’s participants Steven R. Smith and Rob Reger, these multi-instrumentalists are becoming a formidable extended family of musical exchange artists. Sharing and influencing one another along the way, they are creating a burgeoning catalog of highly inventive sound recordings that draw from personal interaction with the environment, European and American folk, traditional ethnic music, psychedelic rock, and minimalism.

Blithe Sons releases have experimented with outdoor recording before. The band’s last full-length, Waves of Grass, released as a CD-R on the Collective’s own imprint, shares a permeable membrane with the out of doors, welcoming nature’s whimsy as a sonic interloper. Often, the elements are allowed to compete with warbling organ drones and loping guitar static.

On We Walk The Young The Earth, the Blithe Sons assuredly weave gentle guitar drone and barely audible percussive clatter into a sound semblance of dawn creeping over some distant horizon: tentative, yearning, hesitant, but inevitable and warm. Employing acoustic guitar, harmonium, bells, banjo, pipes, and battery-powered keyboard, a plaintive voice seeps into the emergent live improv bleat; the album’s five tracks create landscapes with quietude and supple pulse.

The natural world is a fundamental and recurring theme that cuts across the spectrum of the Jewelled Antler collective’s work, from the collage artwork of each CD-R through the unique recording methods and communion with the surrounding environs. This sincere and curious approach distinguishes Donaldson and Chasse on We Walk The Young Earth.

By Michael White

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