Saturday, October 30, 2004


…“These Villages” (Soft Abuse) is Steven R. Smith’s third album under the Hala Strana name. I’ve come to the conclusion that what Smith does here is comparable to what Alan Lomax used to do with home and field recording. It has a similar warped, out of time quality. Traditional and untraditional instruments coexist in a frail harmony with occasional ambient sounds. But instead of capturing traditionalists in their homes and on the street, Smith conjures all the strange musical spirits of old Eastern Europe himself, combining a wide array of plucked and bowed string instruments, percussion and more with digital and analog recording techniques into something unique, and quite beautiful. His production is the perfect sound-bed for these grinding scrapes, haunting drones and more to become entangled and occasionally flower into incandescent sound dreams ranging from the most minimal piano strike to damaged chamber folk swells. So much is covered in a record that suggests the world psych devotions of Popol Vuh, Tony Conrad, early Velvet Underground, Jewelled Antler Collective and more.

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