Recording information: Chicago (12/30/2014-10/22/2015); The Seaside Lounge, Brooklyn (12/30/2014-10/22/2015); Uniform Recordings, Philadelphia (12/30/2014-10/22/2015); Weights and Measures Soundlab, Kansas City (12/30/2014-10/22/2015).
On his second studio album co-credited to the Solar Motel Band, former Peeesseye guitarist Chris Forsyth sprawls out while penning some of his most melodic, accessible songs. Joined here by bass guitarist Peter Kerlin, additional guitarist Nick Millevoi, drummer Steven Urgo, and keyboard player Shawn E. Hansen, along with a few guests, Forsyth combines the rustic with the cosmic, showing focus and restraint on the more rootsy songs and branching out on the lengthier jams, particularly on the album's second disc. "Anthem I" begins the album with sizzling synthesizer textures by Jaime Fennelly (who records solo electronic music as Mind Over Mirrors), warming up for the song's rollicking second part, which showcases Forsyth's heroic guitar prowess, guided by Urgo's thundering yet agile drumming. On the album's title track (which also comes in two parts), Forsyth channels his earthly woes, singing about confusion and losing friends due to miscommunication, over music reminiscent of Television but a bit more spaced-out, with droning keyboards and conga drums. Ten-minute instrumental "High Castle Rock" has a much brighter tone, exuberantly cruising a locked train-like rhythm but still sounding loose and free; Urgo embellishes with crashing drum fills, and the guitarists take a few sonic detours without straying off track. The album's highlight is the dreamy, Tortoise-like "Harmonious Dance," which is a drastic comedown from the ecstatic "High Castle Rock," but its gorgeous melody and soft, graceful drumming provide the album with its most resonant moments. The album's second disc revisits selections from Forsyth's 2012 solo album Kenzo Deluxe, adding seedy horns and warped delay effects to the languid midtempo groove "The First Ten Minutes of Cocksucker Blues" and the sparse, airy lament "Boston Street Lullaby." The album ends with a solemn, stately take on Richard Thompson's "The Calvary Cross," concentrating on the straightforward delivery of the song's gripping lyrics before ending up at an epic (yet not bombastic) guitar solo. It's worth noting that the album is adorned with typically excellent artwork by the fantastic visual artist Robert Beatty (Three Legged Race, Burning Star Core, Hair Police), who paints surreal, fluid abstractions of nature, space, and the human body that nicely complement the tone of the music. ~ Paul Simpson