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This San Francisco ensemble defies categorization, mostly because they use a kitchen sink approach and employ many different musical styles in their gorgeous melange of sound. I’ve read the press kit and numerous glowing reviews from music writers, and they compare Carta to many bands I’ve never listened to. So maybe I am starting from a disadvantage here, or possibly it’s a plus that I don’t have preconceived notions of what it’s supposed to be.
Like Hammock and other instrumental bands, Carta evokes emotion from their sound rather than from their words. Vocals are almost an afterthought, though guest vocalist Odessa Chen’s lilting voice is clearly in the foreground on “The Iowa Fight Song.” Through death, divorce, and illness, they’ve managed to pull off something that is beautiful yet challenging. It unveils itself over time and reveals many-hued layers of complexity, yet it can also be boiled down to simple melodies.
Call it post rock, or space drone, or whatever genre comes to mind, because in the end, labels don’t matter. Still, “The Last Name of Your First Love” reminds me a bit of vintage Brian Eno with its gentle meandering and quiet vocals. It veers off into space land and just drifts away like a pleasant daydream. It melts right into “Morse Code”, which starts out with another female vocal and ends with an unexpected nod to Big Star’s classic “Holocaust”.
The lovely ambient piece, “Sargossa”, reminds me the most of Hammock, if only for the emotions spilling through my brain as I sit here listening on this sultry July day. It is coupled with a deftly played cello that sounds almost like a horn, and while it almost celebrates summer, there is still a tinge of sadness at its core. The cello is probably my favorite instrument, and when it’s integrated as well as this is, the word sublime comes to mind. Heck, I think I even hear a harp in the background, though that could be keyboard programming.
The album closes with “The Faults Follow”, one of the band’s more straightforward pieces, coming off as a denser PacificUV, and fading out with lovely piano. All in all, another majestic release from my friends at Saint Marie Records.
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