A Vintage Burden
or those desperate to pigeonhole A Vintage Burden into the Charalambides canon, it’d be fair to say it’s more of a ‘song’ type release than nearly all of their past collaborative work. It’s to the group’s credit that this doesn’t mean there is a reduction in the breadth or depth of their music. Filled with exquisite playing, beautifully realized songs, and bona fide emotion A Vintage Burden is not a concession to commercialism. In fact, if it weren’t for the miles of music left still to create and the multitudes of paths to take, the album would be looked back on as Charalambides definitive release.
It takes a rare talent to channel the sound of a season so exactly, as “Spring” does. The main line of clean electric guitar paces around the other melody lines like twinkling rays of sunlight. There’s a hesitance in the playing that creates a languid warm feel. Christina Carter’s gorgeous “let it shine...it will shine” refrain is one of hope, after all hope has been dashed. It’s a flinging open of doors and windows to take in the first draughts of warm air. The song sounds like a second chance, and it’s a wondrous piece of music; picking up the pieces isn’t a speedy process.
This sense of fragility and resettling your feet are recurring themes in A Vintage Burden. Tom Carter manages to make the guitar work on opener “There Is No End” both step haltingly and slowly unfurl as it progresses. The song, even with the weight of double tracked vocals, slides by with the delicacy of a thin layer of glass underfoot. The mix and production job, done by Tom Carter, retains ingenuousness despite its “hear everything” polish.
The almost Cure / Cocteau’s sound of “Dormant Love”s lap steel teeters between electronic, organic and something else altogether, insinuating itself through the song’s core. The notes waver, bend, and stretch like some chillingly sharp breeze over the relatively loose acoustic guitar strum. Before Christina even mentions snow in her lyrics (“the year of the heaviest snow”) you can feel the distance in the music and the cold in Carter’s trembling hurt vocals.
The instrumental cut, “Black Bed Blues,” is the lengthiest piece here, but still keeps itself within a structure. This is the unseen improv of what normally happens when the tape machines don’t stop; the extended solo. Building slowly on acoustic pieces of whizzing neon, glinting slide bottleneck blues appear. From this finger-picking swirl comes an unobtrusive vocal drone (from Christina?) that grows under the relaxed Neil Young acoustic rhythms. There’s even space for some coiled dueling, whereas most of the other guitar work on the album seems more stunningly dislocated. Ending in backwards sliding drones, this is the closest A Vintage Burden gets to the “old days.”
Despite the chill of “Dormant Love,” A Vintage Burden might just be the best summer LP you’ll hear this year—perfect timing.
Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2006-05-22