There is something foreign about Bill MacKay and Cooper Crain’s new record as BCMC. Not in the sense that it sounds as if its from another country, but more that it feels unknown, unknowable perhaps. The edges of Foreign Smokes glow like a meteorite, freshly descended into soft earth. The record has a calm to it, but it’s swirled by mists and mystery. Portions of the record slink with a liquid greasiness, a petroleum slipperiness, while others pulse with the sanguine spirit of Reichel and Fricke. MacKay’s guitars, dipped in absinthe and intrigue, lace together with Crain’s synths, the provider of the aforementioned mists. The pair isn’t off base in describing the album as Noir — it’s hard to imagine this album existing during the day, much less being recorded under any sort of direct sunlight. It’s music made for the depths of night breaking into the pre-dawn of early morning. It’s a soundtrack to neon reflections and pulses just barely visible over the horizon.

The first side digs through the char, picking at the remains of the night, laying into the haze. MacKay’s guitars move with patience, a coiled calm. Cooper’s atmospheres are claustrophobic, but never off-putting. As the listener moves into the second side, the sense of space and scope widens towards an almost cosmic infinite, letting go of the dark to embrace a vacuum of reverberating calm and a view unbound by the curve of the Earth. Both artists are no strangers to collaboration, with MacKay having hashed out classics with Ryley Walker, Nathan Bowles, Katinka Kleijn, and Max Lux over the years. This year he’s ranking up with a new trio, Black Duck. Crain is an almost ubiquitous force, becoming an in-demand studio head and producer (Axis: Sova, Rose City Band, Ryley Walker, Bill Nace) and also collaborating with Mike Reed this year. Despite resumes that could fill the page here, this might be one of the most remarkable collaborations from either musician — a gleaming jewel that’s dragging Sun City Girls through the heart of Darkside, with nods to the German Progressives lurking in the wings. Time is a portal, so it was once said, and in this case the 40 minutes on Foreign Smokes transport the listener to one side of the sun and back.

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