Seth Chrisman & Nathan McLaughlin – Earth Tones at the Metal Show

earth tonesNobody goes to a metal show wearing earth tones.

Not on purpose. Presumably there have been unwitting hippies who’ve wandered into the wrong bar on the wrong night, etc. etc. But we can safely assume that Seth Chrisman and Nathan McLaughlin have chosen a universal truth as their new album’s name.

And like all respectable titles, this one has more than one meaning. Earth Tones is in fact a technique the two have developed “using guitars, magnetic tape and digital electronics to explore sustained tones, technological artifacts and the space between them” according to a recent blog post by Chrisman.

This charming collection of 13 shorts were recorded last year during sessions in three different home studios – in Philmont, Tivoli and Hudson, New York. The vibe is quietly reflective. Described as an effort to “explore the tension between rural and urban life,” it will be of as much interest to city dwellers as it is to suburbanites and country folk who watch too much CNN.

“Tan Lines,” an unassuming drone piece that comes five tracks in, captures this perfectly. If Chrisman and McLaughlin were to conduct a study of tones that help listeners transition from go-go to seated comfortably, this is surely where they’d land.

Next comes “Cook Out Stomach,” which features more recognizable guitar picking. Not for long though. It soon transitions into tense, unnerving electronics. Which side represents rural life versus urban life is entirely up to you.

Some of the album’s most interesting work – featuring white noise field recordings – is to be found on “Hush I,” “Hush II” and “Hush III.” These brief additions stand apart from the Earth Tones recordings. At the same time, they re-emphasize the album’s conflict theme.

Don’t be put off by the MacDraw cover. This is a thoughtful, imaginative album.

Kevin Press

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