Milton Cross: Light in the West
Digitalis Industries

Tarentel member Milton Cross (also part of Dial Square and Party of Doom) makes a memorable impression with the fifty-minute Light in the West. The recording was actually originally self-released in a limited CDR format but has been given new life in this Digitalis Industries upgrade which finds some of the original tracks removed and new ones added. Light in the West is filled with experimental, organic, and heavily atmospheric electroacoustic music of the kind might expect to hear from the prototypical kranky artist. Presumably created by Cross alone using multi-tracking, the material is assembled using violin, harmonium, guitar (electric and acoustic), percussion, and field elements. There's a marked earthy quality to Cross's music: nature sounds can often be heard in the background, whether it's the sound of a river flowing (“Passeriformes”), the crackle of a campfire (“First There Came A Letter From A Tree”), or rain falling (“Future Ghost”), and the music itself sometimes exudes a trippy character one might liken to a peyote-fueled experience in the desert (e.g., “Light In The West Where It Will Always Be Morning,” a loud drone Cross builds from string scrapes, harmonium, and tinkling bells).

Distant environmental sounds lend the opener “It's Been Almost a Year” additional atmosphere but it hardly needs it when Cross's violin playing captivates so completely all by itself. His classical training is fully apparent in this twelve-minute piece but it's the depth of feeling he draws from the violin that makes the track an immediate album peak. Rich, keening string tones pour forth limpidly until a droning harmonium wave emerges at the seven-minute mark and eventually takes over completely. Though none of the other pieces is as arresting as “It's Been Almost a Year,” they're still engaging, whether the piece in question is a shuddering guitarscape (“Mountain Pulses”) or a placid meditation of acoustic strums and string tones (“First There Came A Letter From A Tree,” “Fate And Flowers”).

December 2008