Sunday, December 20, 2009

South China - Washingtons

Listening to South China's, Washingtons, evokes images of looking out an icy window towards the Atlantic Ocean. The full force of a North-Eastern winter makes it difficult to breathe the crisp air outside. It is such a beautiful and majestic sight but at direct odds with how dangerous it can be. There is a tempered joy there that is similar to listening to Washingtons. That's not to say the music is somber but the highest of highs in this album are a faint smile at best.

The husband and wife team of Jeremy and Jerusha Robinson are South China. His background is in experimental rock. Her background is in classical. Together they create sublime, moving compositions.

The first notes of the first song "Escape" set the tone for this album. The simple piano notes and cello on this first track are beautifully played by Jerusha, her vocals languidly dancing amongst the instrumentation.

"Painting" starts off with the blurt of horns and a walking cello line. Jeremy's accordion finishes the overall muted sound. The simple harmonies between the two here are spot on.

Set against little else, the cello sounds aggressive here. There are elements of jazz and classical readily recognized on "The Sun Sets On Washington Ave.". The music builds to a crescendo at the end of the song.

"U-Haul And Green Car" is oddly enough a song about moving. The horns return here along with soaring harmonies towards the end. 'Today we drove for a long way, to our city, to make my home," Jerusha sings. Interesting to note the difference between the lyrics saying home instead of house.

Eight songs into Washingtons it's very clear what they do musically. The cello is constant throughout. And yet while listening to the sparse opening to "Sister" I start to guess where they might add the small bits of instrumentation that will inevitably come. Guitar? Accordion? It comes and it is short and sweet. 'But peace is mine at last little sister, and I feel you, at the top of the world'. The timing of Jerusha's delivery of this line is a microcosm of this album. Everything in good time.

What is striking about Washingtons is the sparse beauty of the composition of the music. There aren't any wasted notes or superfluous instrumentation. It's an album that I would be hard pressed to describe with a style. It reminds me of what they tell you in creative writing. Look at everything you've written and then get rid of 50% of what is there. You won't need that. That's what South China has done with Washingtons. What's left is a beautifully lean collection of songs that are a hint of the Spring ahead while presently you are mired in the Winter.

Check out Peapod Recordings for info about purchasing this amazing album.


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