Personnel: Kris Force (violin); Jackie Perez Gratz (cello); Liz Albee (trumpet); Sarah Schaffer (piano, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Kris Force.
Recording information: Louder Studios, San Francisco, CA.
Photographers: Jackie Perez Gratz; Kris Force.
Still Point is Amber Asylum's first full-length album in nearly seven years (an EP was released in 2005), and it reveals a subtle but profound shift in musical direction from their earlier records. Leader Kris Force's musical roots are in the doom metal underground (in the '90s, she worked with scene pioneers Neurosis), and previous Amber Asylum records made that connection rather obvious. On these ten lengthy songs, however, the closest musical touchstones are the classically-oriented post-rock outfit Rachel's and, to a slightly lesser extent, the axis of powerhouse instrumental bands centered on Godspeed You Black Emperor! The semi-classical lineup of the band -- Force on vocals and viola, Jackie Perez-Gratz on cello and guitar, Lorraine Rath on bass and flute, and Sarah Schaffer on piano and percussion -- is as ever augmented with the work of guest musicians, but this time out, it's guests like the brass section that suddenly splits opening track "In the Still Point He Remains" asunder, where on previous albums it might have been a heavy distorted guitar freakout at that point. Even more surprisingly, the album's centerpiece track is a dramatic but fundamentally faithful recording of Richard & Linda Thompson's mysterious ballad "The Great Valerio," complete with guest acoustic guitar by John Cobbett. Despite sounding like an almost completely different band than the one that made 1997's goth metal Frozen in Amber, Still Point is an evocative, at times downright lovely album. ~ Stewart Mason