With a stunner (an recent RSTB 2021 Favorites pick) under his belt already for the year, guitarist Matthew Rolin aims to put another one on the list before year’s end. Along with his partner Jen Powers, the Powers / Rolin Duo return for another excursion into shimmering joy. Like fellow traveller Matt Lajoie, the pair have a penchant for works that bounce light off of the listener, flowing through the movements of Strange Fortune in rippling waves. With Powers on dulcimer, the two move strings in tandem, playing off of one another with a psychic prowess that moves like patterns in nature — swirling like flocks of birds in unison or hives bursting with brilliant activity. The songs here are always vibrating, but underneath the rhythmic thrum, they’re etched deep with joy and delicate sorrow.
A chime announces each new portion of Strange Fortune, breaking the spell for just a moment before the pair dive once more into the meditative fray. The album opens with the daybreak excitement of “Birdhouse,” beating like a hummingbird through the brush, but its easy air is quickly interrupted by the solemn, furrowed “Tea Lights,” a piece that pushes past easy melancholy and into a well of familial sadness. With another strike of the chime, the tears are swept aside as quickly as they are drawn out. “Drifts” buzzes with anticipation, a prelude to natural splendor and they make good on the anxious build with the album’s closer, the 20+ minute “Amaranth.” The song returns to the joy of the opener, practically bursting from the grooves of the record and dappling every inch of the room in a prismatic glow. The pair proved that they were formidable with 2020’s eponymous LP, but with Strange Pursuits, Powers and Rolin have a symbiosis that’s beautiful in full bloom.
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