Gregory Rago : Sophie Blanchard Falls to Her Death
Gregory Rago (self-released) Call it music for wandering. It's almost a genre unto itself--earthbound but ethereal, meditative but tangible. Consider Dirty Three, Ilyas Ahmed, Sigur Rós, Tara Jane O'Neil, and kin, however much or little DNA they might technically share. Guitarist Gregory Rago has made a fine entry with this, his sophomore release. Indeed, a quickly plucked guitar is among the most hypnotic of sounds, unexpectedly conveying a sense of cloying emptiness. It's not racing, it's not telling, that diminutive finger blur is just wandering.
There are no vocals on Sophie Blanchard--accompaniment is a sparely used cello, which is, of course, all but made for the wandering genre. On "The Arctic Balloon Expedition of 1897," Amy Cavanaugh's cello is used as a droning glissade that calls back and forth with an impatient, assertive guitar, a conversation that's never quite resolved by the end. Elsewhere it's an ominous accent, and, on "The Artic Balloon Expedition of 1897, Part 3" it rises out of the mix into an achingly lovely solo to bring a tear to the eye of any Rachel's fan. (Similarly, the clear, reverberating slide guitar on "How He Left the World" will raise the hairs on the back of the neck in a rather Godspeed fashion.)
Songs here are relatively brief, and particularly on the aforementioned tracks, so you might want to know what could've developed with another four minutes. At just over a minute, the fifth, untitled, track is essentially an interlude: slow, placid melodies played against--or around--each other, delayed and recorded in lo-fi for an effect that's like hearing just-twanged guitars interpret the sound of ringing crystal glasses, with two big, reverberating vibraphone notes at either end of the piece like they are marking the time. As with the rest of this uniformly gorgeous record, that time is much too brief.
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