While there’s barely a raised eyebrow at the thought of Mary Lattimore helming a collection of neo-classical minimalist compositions there’s a bit of an ear perk when Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan gets thrown into the mix as well. The pair have teamed up for a collection of movements called New Rain Duets, with Mac helming the synthesizer as a foil to Mary’s poignant plucks. The pair are working in an Eno womb of sound – appropriately evoking the grey-skied sighs of the album’s title. There’s a feeling of cabin fever, bone chill brooding, and eventually a resigned despair to the record. The pieces, set against actual field recordings of rain, begin by lapping at the windows of the soul in a deflating drizzle, rather than wild torrents of sound. There’s isolation vibrating between the notes, a yearning to connect doused by nature’s icy fingers.
As usual Lattimore’s playing remarkably pulls the heart from its chest and massages an ephemeral ache into every inch. As the record wears on, though, MacCaughan’s synths become less subsumed into the walls and reach a rising panic- the feeling of isolation, fear, and anxiety pushing aside Lattimore’s emotional balms. The caged demeanor moves from home windows to car windows, with the rain slicking the streets and a storm lacquering danger onto every minute. There’s still that unmistakable pang of sadness – the feeling that if you can just get through this deluge it’ll all work out all right. In the throes of the second and third movements, the light of exit doesn’t seem so close, however.
I’d love to say that the fourth movement brings a feeling of peace, but its more relief. The gnawing of anxiety and inertia is left behind in a long sigh, but the break in the downpour only seems to leave the world damp and dour. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking record, that doesn’t let the listener off easy. While its an unexpected output from these two musicians, its nonetheless a masterfully constructed chrysalis of pain and panic.
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