Lost Trail: Blacked Out Passages
Visceralmedia Records

Lost Trail: a perfect name for the experimental soundscaping project of Burlington, North Carolina-based husband-and-wife Zachary and Denny Wilkerson Corsa, given its propensity for meandering exploratively into multiple zones. The two bring their lo-fi, DIY aesthetic to four settings on the forty-four-minute release, the latest in a long line of cassette and CD recordings the Corsas have issued on numerous national and international labels. Recorded in a shed in rural Efland, North Carolina in fall of 2012, Blacked Out Passages threads guitars, piano, field recordings, noise, synths, organs, and percussion into gritty, sometimes hallucinatory dreamscapes within which disembodied voices and alien sounds surface alongside earthbound electric guitar shadings and keyboards. Though the recording, effectively structured and concise, frames two seven-minute pieces with two longer ones, the album really plays like one extended piece, despite the indexing and brief pauses separating the tracks from one another.

With its outlines heavily smudged, “Nothing is Real Until You Put it in the VCR” exudes a ghostly quality that's countered by the life-affirming presence of children's voices. Though there's a clear sense of structure in its fifteen-minute presentation, there's also a sense of open-endedness, an embrace of chance and possibility in the material's evolving flow and the directions its pursues. In like manner, “A Parking Lot Gloaming” juxtaposes buried choral voices and a speaking voice, its words almost too blurry to decipher, against a decayed backdrop of noise textures and piano sprinklings. Phase-treated guitar effects lend “Insertion Loss/Noise Barrier” a plaintive feel before a voice sample reinforces the ethereal character of the material in its focus on after-death experience. “Rooftops/Spires/Valleys” comes into being as a cavernous, grime-coated drone within whose aggressive churn one faintly detects out-of-focus moans and instrument flourishes of indeterminate kinds. But as aggressive as the setting is, the Corsas never let it careen entirely out of control and exercise, here as they do elsewhere, a controlling hand. It's telling that when a chainsaw emerges during the piece's later stages it's used to create a rhythmic effect rather than violently rip Lost Trail's material to shreds.

Whether by accident or design, the bleak, achromatic album photography and typewriter typography invite comparison to Library Tapes' Alone In The Bright Lights Of A Shattered Life and Godspeed You! Black Emperor's 'Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend—which is especially interesting considering that, armed with ghostly pianos, soot-covered guitars, and voice samples, Blacked Out Passages sometimes plays like some merger of the two, minus the climactic builds oft associated with Godspeed. What puts considerable distance between those acts and Lost Trail, however, is that the latter's focus is more on experimental soundscaping as opposed to a relatively more conventional style of compositional structure.

March 2014