Six Twilights: Six Twilights
Own Records

Six Twilights is a distinctive electronic-folk collection by Aaron Gerber, a member of the Portland-based group A Weather. It's a two-part release, with the first an hour-long CD of ten atmospheric vocal settings that pull folk, ambient, drone, psychedelic, and electronic elements into their respective orbits. Gerber layers his hushed vocal murmur over quietly mutating backdrops in appealing manner, and often cedes the vocal spotlight to Liz Isenberg and Zoë Wright whose singing entrances too. The songs are unconventional in structure and delivery and, in fact, are more like wistful meditations that gently sway like tall country grasses on a summer afternoon (the style's zenith is reached with the nearly thirteen-minute “Scarf, Bed”).

The material ranges from boldly experimental to traditional: the relaxed vocal interplay in like “Tonight I'm Letting You Drive” and “Full With Snow” recalls the similar free-flowing style pursued by Jane Siberry on albums like When I Was a Boy, while, accompanied by acoustic guitar, Gerber goes it alone on the campfire folk of “I Can't Even Begin To Tell You” and the lovely outro “Still Talk.” The hypnotic ante intensifies in “Enclosed Piece of Sky” when vocal fragments ripple like droplets over a textured field of blur. Hushed male and female voices float in from multiple directions while electronically-processed streams of piano, acoustic guitar, accordion, and bass form background bridges. Think, perhaps, of a less twee Múm improvising with Greg Davis and you're in the sonic ballpark.

In my experience, CD-DVD releases usually feature a strong CD and a much less satisfying DVD but, in this case, the DVD seems an even more perfect realization of the Six Twilights aesthetic. Gerber embroiders a sprawling yet hypnotic tapestry from wilderness footage, autumn scenes, music (many of the first disc's songs re-appear), spoken word passages, conversations, and phone messages. Song titles scrawled in red crayon announce shifts from one section to the next as film footage of trees, darkening pastel skies, snowy forests, adults and children, and telephone poles move in and out of focus. The mood is wistful, and the imagery itself sometimes suggests faded colour photography. It bears mentioning, however, that two things weaken the DVD's effectiveness: its spoken word passages and its length. When birds are shown gathering on telephone wires in a wintry industrial setting, for example, the piano playing that accompanies it is a perfect complement; the inclusion of the speaking voice only dilutes the impact, especially when lines uttered (during a different segment) are of this type: “Happiness should be something that you have and which having makes you want it more so that the space between having and wanting is infinitely small.” A better strategy would have been to let the visuals and music alone impart the poetic feeling. In addition, the release would have benefited from some judicious editing; a more palatable running time would have had the CD and DVD weigh in at fifty minutes each rather than an excessive 130-minute total. Even so, Six Twilights, clearly no slapdash affair, stands out as a special release.

August 2007