#1 by Low VarietyRelease date: October 4, 2019
Label: Fat Cat Records
Ushering aside the noise pop of his previous Dead Gaze project, R. Cole Furlow has extended his limbs into more arcadian realms for this, his first release under the Low Variety moniker.
On first listen #1 could easily be mistaken for a series of simple yet entrancing, guitar-based folk instrumentals. Conjuring images of sunlit melancholy, pastoral cavorting, simpler times. But you don’t have to scratch too deep for this idyll to distort. Cracks appear, images phase in and out. Extrinsic sounds intrude on this invented bliss. The false remembrance of invented good old days warps and unsettles.
These encroaching moments of shattered rurality are peppered throughout #1 much like the eeriness of buckled memory as utilised by The Caretaker. It never really was quite like that, was it? Extra terrestrial signals arise in ‘Vini’. Helicopter blades shudder. Furlow attempts to drown it out with burbling synths and chipper acoustic melodies. Sounds overlap, compliment and manifest a sense of the sun glinting off suspended raindrops. Sandwiched within the gargle of otherworldly noise, these tiny and imperceptible trinkets dazzle when illuminated.
There’s further grasping of a seemingly halcyon light on ‘Consolation Honda’. What appears to be the twilight recollection of lost years seen through an enforced rose-tint turns out to be frayed at the edges. Memories of golden hour frolics mutate as the sun goes down, the sky turns black, and the memory dies. This theme of cognitive erosion continues with ‘Honey Bear’. A delicate fuzz on the pick ups suggests it all lightly coming undone. Tattered seams. All the while maypole dancers twirl and spin in the ailing light. There’s something of the uncanny in all of this. A folk horror soundtrack for a TV pilot never commissioned. The full horror never exposed.
At other times this is more reminiscent of a score to a 70s children’s TV show. A chirpy dance delivered by Belbury Poly. The bucolic string play also calls to mind Bibio’s Ribbons from earlier this year. ‘Meeting Dollars’ begins with a breakbeat intrusion. Electronic signals are reaching for the dirt and air of the country. Pained guitar outbursts. That this is released on digital only seems pertinent. It feels like the urban gazing wistfully at mist-strewn hills.
This sense of being out of step is also noticeable on opener ‘Requiem For Charles Henri Ford’. Delayed guitar strings pulse in and out of sync. Gentle breezy synths segue in to semi-masked speeches. It’s as if Furlow is scanning radio frequencies for suitable drifting sonics and ends up stumbling across clipped ambient segments of Blue Jam. The fingerpicked motifs fade in and fade out of ‘Pearl Street Exit’ too. Like they are plucking up courage. Taking hesitant steps. Gaining in confidence. It is music that has braced itself against the elements. Against naysayers. Against suffering. And suffering does emerge, as a thick, drawn out rib-rattling drone that smothers all. It takes centre stage, nullifying all accompaniment.
As we progress through the album, this edge develops further. It’s shattered, lonely, and gasping. The notes hold on for as long as they can. If we ignore the tinge of terror, perhaps it’ll go away? Hollow-eyed players continue their melancholic strumming and picking for the village’s enjoyment. Something isn’t right though. They pause. The full force of sadness hits. Flush it out. Play it out.
Furlow doesn’t want to leave us this way, in this state of perturbed uncertainty, however, and for the closer he opts for a sense of reassurance. This simple folk-centric life hasn’t changed. It’s here to stay. All the majesty of the accompanying twinkles helps to embed and reinforce this ideology. Look up at the stars. They’re still here. They’re not going anywhere. They’re there just as they were before. Just as they were when you were young.