Thursday, August 16, 2012

Trembling Blue Stars — Correspondence (2011)

That the last Trembling Blue Stars recording begins with nearly six minutes of undefined ambient noise is one of the most confounding moments in the long career of Bob Wratten.  And yet, as appropriately great and triumphant as that epic twelve minute Robert Hampson ambient revision of 'Half-Light' is (retitled here 'The Light Outside'), it kicks off this farewell EP in an unpredictably predictable way. 

I only say that it's unpredictable in the way that the fanfare preceding it, advertising that it would be the last record to bare the Trembling Blue namesake, seemed to propose that Bob and the gang would have a curve ball.


Business as usual here for the Stars, as far as their album follow-up EPs go.

Some moody ambient experiments, a brilliant pop song, a cover tune, a slow acoustic number or two and we're done.

This is why they're amongst the best.

Because, you see, even when I can pick up a record a year after it was initially released (because at the time I was like, "Only 500 being pressed?  Forget it.  I don't have a chance."  Lucky, am I, it seems in the long run), understand the hype behind it being the last thing one of my favorite bands will ever do, put it on and just completely understand it, simultaneously anticipate every coming second and fear its conclusion in equal measure. . . well, that's a brilliant moment for artist and fan.

Bob Wratten's music has come to mean so much to me — whether through the Field Mice, the Yesterday Sky, Northern Picture Library, the Occasional Keepers and or indeed through his longest running handle, the Trembling Blue Stars.  He is one of the greatest songwriters and creative antennas of all time.  This EP is not unlike the EPs that have followed the Seven Autumn Flowers (Bathed In Blue) and the Last Holy Writer (Beautiful Blank).  There's a scattershot of styles tackled, but it all feels worthwhile and in line with its preceding full length (which, in this case, is 2010's Fast Trains and Telegraph Wires/Cicely Tonight_Volume One) in the best possible way.

Off the bat, 'Sunrise on Mars' strikes me as one of the greatest tunes in Bob's cannon.  It's just. . . a moment of pure, resonating pop bliss.  He actually says, "I"m never coming down.  You can't catch me now, absurd little world.  Floating above it all."  And then talks about looking forward to the sunrise on another planet.  The very next track is an Occasional Keepers reunion where he and the band dig deep to pull out an exceptional, purposely 80's-sounding cover of 'Kidney Bingos' (originally by Wire).

The man (and his collaborators, by proxy) is a cornucopia of brilliant music.

The EP closes out with two quieter, acoustic-y songs; one sung by Bob, one sung by Beth.  And it's entirely fitting that the end to such an increasingly strong catalgue of material ends on such a nondescript note.  The band has been all but ignored for the majority of its existence, so here's a quietly confusing EP for the clamoring fans (me) to sort out for themselves.

It's a limited edition of five hundred copies and is pressed on opaque orange vinyl.

It's going to be a long time before there's another band like this.


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