Jasper TX: A Darkness

Coming after the Lampse release I'll Be Long Gone When my Light Reaches You, A Darkness is Jasper TX's (Sweden's Dag Rosenqvist) second full-length as well as the virgin release from Lidar. Produced in his Gothenburg-based studio, the new collection offers a compelling fusion of delicate guitar and piano melodies and atmospheric drones, with much of it drenched in the crackle and hiss of dusty tape recordings. Field recordings give the material a widened scope and root it in decaying atmospheres while chiming electric guitars illuminate the material's often dark character. It's an album of contrasts in another sense too, as short pieces like the ambient interlude “Sleep; Ghosts” alternate with two epics, the quarter-hour “Nightbirds” and twenty-one-minute “Some Things Broken, Some Things Lost.”

“Better Days to Come” rises from its ashes to become a lyrical guitar setting that's eventually rendered more stately with the addition of organ and glockenspiel. “Destroy Detroit (The Sign of Buildings Never Built)” begins with gaseous rumble and churn before a looped voice pierces the machine-like haze; as the dense mass intensifies, an elegiac guitar melody gradually casts the grime aside altogether, allowing keyboards to bathe the guitar in glorious sunlight. The even prettier “Winter/Midnight/Suicide” wends a straighter post-rock path where guitars echo over slowly lurching rhythms and the bright wheeze of harmonica-like accents. The nightmarish, spectral drone “Nightbirds” documents the album's most uncompromising plunge into abstraction; it takes no great effort to imagine souls drifting across the river Styx as they make their way to Hades (so long as one ignores the phone call), though the piece assumes a slightly more earthly ambiance with the advent of swarms of what sound like plucked piano strings. As memorable as it is, the album's towering achievement is its closer, “Some Things Broken, Some Things Lost” which segues from ghostly slumber to delicate acoustic guitar playing to becalmed tones that shimmer in a manner reminiscent of Stars of the Lid. The piece incrementally builds towards a remarkable climax, after which it slowly decompresses and exits with a peaceful coda so lovely it's ravishing.

May 2007