Personnel: Leila Abdul-Rauf (guitar, piano, synthesizer); Jackie Gratz (cello); Sigrid Sheie (flute).
Recording information: Knobsnob Studio, pacifia, CA; Studio Paradiso, The Mosser Hotel, San Francisco, CA.
Illustrator: David V. DAndrea.
Photographer: Kris Force.
Since the mid-'90s, San Francisco ensemble Amber Asylum has been stretching the boundaries of post-rock music into a kind of chamber goth sound that owes a little bit to metal, but just as much to folk (they've covered Black Sabbath, but also Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Poppies" and Richard & Linda Thompson's "The Great Valerio"). This new album shows the influence of group leader Kris Force's longtime involvement with Neurosis as well as an appreciation for ancient music; the melody of "Winter Winds" is very much in the spirit of "Greensleeves" or similar songs. There's also a heavy electronic and psychedelic feel to the music, though; voices drift in and out as though through a haze, and instruments -- violin, cello, guitar, piano -- surge forward and back in the mix with the same disorientation one hears in the work of dub producers like Lee Perry and King Tubby. The nearly 15-minute "Nocturne" combines all these aesthetic strategies into one sweeping epic, Force's cello spinning out long, melancholy lines reminiscent of the theme song to the creepy 1990s TV show Millennium as acoustic guitar and whooshing synths hum and plink around her. Wordless vocals add a ghostly ambience, and the track winds down in a delicate dissolution like the air itself is hissing out of the room. Kris Force and her cohorts have been developing this highly individual, carefully conceived soundworld for over a decade at this point, and they've so totally synthesized their influences that now they sound like no one else. ~ Phil Freeman