Keepsakes: Rural Route No. 9
Standard Form

Standard Form's Rural Route series comes to a rather downtrodden finish with the ninth installment in the series. Under the Keepsakes name, Arizona-based musician and photographer K. Eric Kassner presents five intensely melancholic meditations created using piano, vibraphone, marimba, field recordings, and music box, among other things. In Kassner's own words, “These pieces are born of a tragically broken family and home, which served as the setting for these recordings. Drug addiction, reckless and irresponsible decisions, and tragic indifference intertwine to render the disintegration of a family. At the heart of all this destruction lies the uncertain future of an innocent and dearly loved child.” One shouldn't be too surprised, then, to discover that the release, issued in a 150-copy run, isn't overflowing with uplift.

While it's not quite slit-your-wrists material, Kassner's music pushes melancholy to a tragic extreme and is often mysterious in mood and character, too, as quietly whistling exhalations lend the tracks an alien, sci-fi quality. As soft and fragile as a whisper, “Villa Maria” unfolds like a slow-motion panorama, with sparse piano notes scattered across a quietly droning backdrop of static ripples, ghostly electronic slivers, and a distantly barking dog. The provocatively titled “Leeches (Drugged Out Fathers and Their Whore Girlfriends)” juxtaposes the crackle of a dying fire with gentle electronic breezes and the murmur of a marimba, while distorted voices appear at the periphery of “Now We See but a Poor Reflection” like smudges on a windowpane. One might well question why anyone would wish to give one's time and attention to music so bereft of hope. The answer: because, obviously, sometimes it's exactly the right kind of music for a particular mood, in this case during those moments when one is weary of the world and longs for at least a temporary respite from it. A final note: not only is the release the last in the Rural Routes series, it's also the last to be published under the Standard Form name, as future releases from the Toronto-based company will appear on the newly created Komino Records.

November 2011