Don’t go into Constellation, the new release by San Diego’s (late of Northeastern Ohio) Longsleeves, looking for snappy choruses or arena-rocking riffs. Or many recognizable instruments, for that matter. Not so much a “guy holed up with his instruments” project as it is a cohesive experiment in liquid sonic languor, Constellation requires a bit of lifting – or, better yet, active relaxation – from the listener.
All instrumental and decidedly indie-centric, Constellation isn’t simply laptop Muzak. Sure, the tracks run together pretty much seamlessly, and there’s not really anything here in the way of verse/chorus/verse, but active listening reveals detail, the aural equivalent of a calm and muddy stream you have to be submerged in to see that it’s teeming with life. The muted glitches and scratchy backgrounds that underpin all the songs establish sort of a foundation to the gauzy keyboard lines and pads – there are no sharp edges here.
Opener “Great Bear” sets the tone immediately, with an understated beating-heart rhythm, simple, celestial keyboards and an uninterrupted flow of static-y sonic snow lightly falling amidst the spare notes. The ever-so-slightly spooky “Little Bear” is haunted by dissonant swaths partially buried in the mix, while “Hunter” comes closest to anything resembling “conventional” beats on the album (yet it’s all still incredibly subtle).
By the time you’ve become fully assimilated to Constellation, “Swan” plays you out with droning warmth. Do not operate heavy machinery at this point. Longsleeves proves masterful at taking us beneath the surface; to call Constellation “chill-out” music would be a misnomer. More like “womb-rock.” Go to www.sixtyyearswar.com for more information. (D.M. Jones)
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