Posted on May 22nd 2010 12:20 am
LAURA GIBSON & ETHAN ROSE
09 Tracks. 34mins49secs
Coming from very different horizons, Laura Gibson and Ethan Rose meet on Bridge Carols to combine their personal worlds into something entirely new. Both hailing from Portland, Oregon, the pair began working together following a chance encounter, experimenting with the dynamic that started to take shape as they got more familiar with each other. Gibson, a folk singer and guitarist (she plays on a nylon string guitar we are repeatedly told), first appeared with an EP released on Hush Records in 2003, but it took another four years before she published her first album, If You Come To Greet Me. Her second, Beasts Of Season, came out last year and received praises from the press and public alike. Rose’s work is largely based on his keen interest for old technologies and how he can use them to create something contemporary and fresh. He has released a number of albums, his latest, Oaks, last year, already on Baskaru, and has also worked on a number of sound installations and film scores.
This collaboration has grown organically as Gibson and Rose got accustomed to the creative space they occupied together. Inspired by Gibson’s soft vocal tones, Rose started creating soundscapes upon which Gibson applied words and phrases that she had documented in notebooks over the years, but which had never made it onto songs. She later improvised additional lyrics and wordless vocals, getting closer to traditional song forms (Old Waters, Younger, Boreas Borealis), yet remaining for the most part in a much looser context. Rose framed these with extremely delicate sound formations, built indifferently from field recordings, acoustic instruments or shimmering electronic textures, and processed his companion’s vocals, cutting them up into smaller pieces and rearranging them to create entirely new narratives.
Very much like on his own work, there is here a particular grain to Rose’s soundscapes, feeling at once beautifully organic and hauntingly processed, which gives these songs a fragility emphasised even more by Gibson’s half formed songs and restrained performance. This is especially the case on the stunning Younger, which, over its course, takes on a handful of appearances, changing imperceptibly from voice and guitar to dreamy soundscapes or glitchy abstraction, even incorporating a muted trumpet in the distance just past the half-way mark. Later, Sun is another superb moment, as Gibson’s voice finding its way through bright sparkly bells and celesta, while Boreas Borealis finds the pair on the verge of pop music, albeit of a very ethereal and pensive inclination.
Bridge Carols is much more than a simple exchange of ideas, it is the fruit of a real collaborative process, reflected in Gibson’s abstract approach to her lyrics and the tonal subtlety of her voice on one side, and in Rose’s use of more easily identifiable sounds and instruments within his compositions. Their respective sound worlds are substantially enriched by their open approach, and it is a real pleasure to explore the multi-layered soundtrack that results.